Indonesia says Lion Air jet that crashed was not airworthy

01 December, 2018, 06:50 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • National Transportation Safety Committee investigator Nurcahyo Utomo said four of the crashed aircraft's previous flights had experienced technical problems

"Although the report states that the pilot was satisfied by the information relayed by the engineer that the AOA sensor had been replaced and tested, on the subsequent flight the pilots again experienced problems with erroneous airspeed data, and also experienced automatic nose down trim", Boeing said.

"I think pilots can judge for themselves whether to continue", said Lion Air managing director Daniel Putut, a former pilot.

Accident investigators often speak of the "Swiss cheese" theory of airline accidents.

"As our customers and their passengers continue to fly the 737 Max to hundreds of destinations around the world every day, they have our assurance that the 737 Max is as safe as any airplane that has ever flown in the skies".

The doomed jet's systems had detected it was in a stall due to a faulty indicator and gave the captain a warning through a "stick shaker" that vibrated the controls, Nurcahyo Utomo, an investigator at Indonesia's transport safety committee (KNKT), told parliament last week.

The crash was the first involving the latest model of Boeing's best-selling 737 series, the 737 MAX, which entered service a year ago. Pilots reportedly made over two dozen attempts to regain control of the plummeting aircraft, but failed, losing radio contact and crashing just 13 minutes after taking off from the capital city of Jakarta.

And the problem appeared to get worse in spite of attempts at fix.

New details of Flight JT610's final moments were also included in the report.

The manufacturer, which has said procedures for preventing an anti-stall system activating by accident were already in place, said pilots of the penultimate flight had used that drill but noted the report did not say if pilots of the doomed flight did so. Pilots on that route, however, were able to turn off the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), and guide the plane to safety. Such an issue was significant enough that pilots should have landed under Indonesia regulations, even though the checklists never instructed the crew to do so, according to the NTSC.

SCHAPER: The preliminary report calls for improved maintenance procedures and more pilot training.

Members of the National Transportation Safety Committee lift a box containing the flight data recorder from a crashed Lion Air jet
Members of the National Transportation Safety Committee lift a box containing the flight data recorder from a crashed Lion Air jet

"They will be looking for more precise reporting of problems (by pilots), and certainly a better maintenance response", she said.

But they can include immediate recommendations if they have pressing safety concerns. But hours before the plane took off on its final flight, it had also recorded problems with an angle of attack sensor as it traveled from the resort island of Bali to Jakarta. The report repeats recommendations that pilots be better versed in emergency procedures aware of past aircraft problems.

That end came after a battle between its flight crew and a computerized control system that repeatedly tilted the plane downward because of a malfunctioning sensor, according to the report.

The preliminary report does not fully unravel the mystery behind the crash. Sirait told reporters in Jakarta the airline has always upheld a safety culture. "We will then dismantle it to physically check if there are any abnormalities that caused the plane's cockpit instrument to show altitude anomalies", said Nurcahyo on Wednesday, November 28. "Is this true? If it's like that, it seems that the report is finished".

Indonesian investigators expect to fly to the USA later this week to gather more information about the Boeing aircraft and its components, including discussing the MCAS safety feature with Boeing engineers to understand how it may have contributed to the accident, Utomo said.

Pilots tried to correct this by pointing the nose higher, until the system pushed it down again. That makes it more prone to failure, he said.

Pilots at American Airlines and Southwest Airlines complained this month that they had not been given all information about the new system on the MAX.

"It's a pretty serious issue for Boeing", Cox said.

The Indonesian investigation is continuing with help from USA regulators and Boeing.


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