Boeing Didn’t Tell Airlines That Safety Alert Wasn’t On

Boeing admits it knew of flaw in 737 MAX planes before fatal crash

Boeing admitted that it knew about a problem with its 737 Max jets a year before the issues caused two fatal accidents but did nothing to change it.

Following the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the October 2018 crash of a Lion Air-operated 737 MAX 8 into the Java Sea that killed in total 346 people, a number of countries, including the US, China, India, Egypt, Vietnam, and European Union blocked the Boeing 737 MAX 8 from their airspace while investigations regarding the crashes are carried out.

Boeing said that senior company leadership was not involved in the review of the aircraft and first became aware of this issue in the aftermath of the Lion Air accident. The accident occurred after erroneous readings by a single angle-of-attack sensor triggered software that pushed the jet's nose down until pilots lost control.

Boeing's statement notes that in 2017, soon after 737 MAX deliveries started, Boeing engineers detected that the 737 Max display system software was not exactly meeting the AOA Disagree alert requirements.

In a statement, the manufacturer said it had identified that the 737 MAX display system software did not correctly meet the (Angel of Attack) AOA Disagree alert requirements. As a result, the AOA Disagree light, which warned pilots of discrepancies, functioned only for airlines that bought the optional indicator.

Boeing maintained that the software problem "did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation".

It is not clear whether having the warning light would have prevented either the Lion Air crash or the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max near Addis Ababa.

Flydubai, the UAE's sole operator of the 737 Max, and one the company's largest customers, said it had no comment on Boeing's disclosure.

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The Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday that even if Boeing believed the issue was "low risk", "timely earlier communication with the operators would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion".

Disagree alerts would notify pilots whether a sensor is malfunctioning or not.

Boeing revisited the issue in December 2018 by convening a Safety Review Board (SRB) to determine for the second time whether the absence of the AOA Disagree alert would amount to a safety issue, according to the company.

Boeing briefed the FAA's Seattle aircraft certification office in November, and the information was forwarded to the agency's Corrective Action Review Board for evaluation, an FAA representative said Sunday.

"That's negligence from Boeing in regards the AOA system", said Evi Samsul Komar, whose son and nephew were on the fatal flight.

The US aircraft manufacturer said that it has taken on $1 billion in additional costs due to the worldwide grounding of its global 737 MAX fleet following the second deadly crash.

The Ethiopian pilots, who after the previous crash would have been keenly aware of MCAS, seem to have realized that system was the problem reasonably quickly and tried to follow Boeing's recommended checklist of procedures to handle it, though they still were not able to control the plane. Only after the crash of Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 last November did the company issue a bulletin revealing that the light did not work as advertised.

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