Boeing issues warning on potential instrument malfunction after Indonesia crash
Investigators examine engine parts from the ill-fated Lion Air flight 610 at a port in Jakarta on November 7, 2018, after they were recovered from the bottom of the Java sea. (Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images) November 7 at 6:26 AM
JAKARTA, Indonesia â" Airplane manufacturer Boeing said Wednesday that it had issued a bulletin to airlines worldwide warning of erroneous readings from flight-control software on its planes, after an almost-new Lion Air jetliner crashed into the sea soon after takeoff killing the 189 people on board.
Boeing, which is assisting in an investigation into what went wrong on the Oct 29 crash of one of its new 737 Max 8 jets, said in a statement that it had issu ed a bulletin on Tuesday as âpart of its usual process.â The bulletin warned airline operators on what to do if they receive false readings from flight-control software that measures the angle of the plane, the statement added, and alert flight crews of the procedure they have to follow.
The bulletin from Boeing is the first indication that an error with the aircraftâs system may have caused the Lion Air flight, which took off last Monday from Jakarta. Instead of a smooth take off, the planeâs altitude fluctuated dramatically, and increased in speed before nose-diving into the Java Sea 13 minutes later.
Indonesian investigators have recovered the planeâs flight data recorder, which showed the planeâs airspeed indicator malfunctioned on its last four flights.
âThe Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee has indicated that Lion Air Flight 610 experienced erroneous input from one of its AOA (Angle of Attack) sensors,â said Boeing in th e statement. A misreading in the sensor can cause the plane to dive suddenly.
Indonesian investigators said Wednesday that an AOA sensor on the jet had been replaced the day before the doomed flight, on Oct 28, when a pilot flying the same aircraft on a different route, from Bali to Jakarta, reported problems with it. The pilot on the crashed Lion Air flight had asked shortly after takeoff to return to the airport in Jakarta, but lost contact with air traffic controllers afterward.
The two Indonesian airlines that fly the Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, national carrier Garuda Airlines and Lion Air, which operates 10 of these planes, both declined to comment on the bulletin. Indonesian officials say that all 11 of such aircraft have been tested for airworthiness and have been declared safe to fly.
On Wednesday, the Indonesian transportation safety committee said it would recreate the flight to see what role the possibly malfunctioning sensor may have played in the c rash. The recreation will be done at Boeingâs facilities in Seattle, and will replicate the flightâs actual path and journey. Boeing also said that it continues to provide support and technical assistance to the Indonesian investigators and other government authorities.
Experts have been puzzled at what could have caused the almost-new jet to go down in clear skies, unlike other major airplane disasters where conditions or older jets played a big factor. The data from the flight recorder and Boeingâs statement have provided the first clues, but rescuers continue to search for the device that records voices in the planeâs cockpit, which will provide a fuller picture to investigators of the Lion Air flightâs final moments.
Search operations continue in the Java Sea off the coast of Jakarta. On Wednesday morning, members of the countryâs national search and rescue team used helicopters and boats as they looked for the cockpit voice recorder, more wreckage and bodies. Officials have recovered pieces of the plane, including the left engine and right landing gear, but have yet to locate the main fuselage.
The Boeing 737 Max 8 jets are among the manufacturerâs newest models, and have been snapped up by airliners in booming aviation markets, including Indonesia and India. More than 200 of such planes are in service around the world, billed as the most advanced of the popular 737 jets.
Shibani Mahtani in Singapore and Ainur Rohmah in Jakarta contributed to reporting.
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