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Lion Air joins US pilots in claiming Boeing withheld info on plane model that crashed

Boeing was facing mounting pressure Wednesday over the Indonesia airplane disaster as the owner of the doome...

Posted: Nov 14, 2018 7:56 PM
Updated: Nov 14, 2018 7:56 PM

Boeing was facing mounting pressure Wednesday over the Indonesia airplane disaster as the owner of the doomed jet joined a US pilots' group in alleging the company failed to warn pilots about the potential hazards of a new safety feature implicated in the crash.

A top Lion Air official told CNN that the manual for Boeing's 737 MAX 8 -- the model that crashed into the Java Sea last month, killing all 189 on board -- did not include a warning about a critical feature that could cause the plane to dive.

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Zwingli Silalahi, the Indonesian airline's operational director, said the manual did not tell pilots that in certain situations, the plane's stall-prevention system could automatically trigger a response, such as lowering the airplane's nose, to prevent or exit a stall.

"We don't have that in the manual of the Boeing 737 MAX 8. That's why we don't have the special training for that specific situation," Zwingli said Wednesday.

Investigators are examining whether a sensor on the outside of the plane transmitted incorrect data that could have triggered the stall-prevention system.

The airline's claims come after Boeing was similarly accused Tuesday by the Allied Pilots Association (APA) of withholding information about the potential danger of the plane's new features.

Lion Air Flight 610 crashed shortly after taking off from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on October 29. Investigators believe the MAX 8 plane may have experienced problems with several sensors.

Boeing said last week that a safety bulletin issued to aircraft operators in the wake of the crash was merely meant to reinforce existing procedures. Both Lion Air and the APA have now rejected the company's assertion.

"They (Boeing) didn't provide us all the info we rely on when we fly an aircraft," Capt. Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the APA group, told CNN on Tuesday. "The bulletin is not reaffirming, it's enlightening and adding new info."

Zwingli added that Boeing's safety bulletin did not suggest additional training for pilots operating that aircraft. "We didn't receive any information from Boeing or from regulator about that additional training for our pilots," he said.

Zwingli said that if the result of the ongoing investigation -- conducted by Indonesia's National Transportation Commission, the US National Transportation Safety Board, and Boeing -- found that additional training was necessary, Lion Air pilots would undertake it.

On Wednesday, a Boeing spokesperson said in an email that it could not "discuss specifics of an ongoing investigation" and that the company had "provided two updates for our operators around the world that re-emphasize existing procedures for these situations."

"We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX. Safety remains our top priority and is a core value for everyone at Boeing," the spokesperson said.

The head of the Directorate of Airworthiness and Aircraft Operations (DOAAO) at the Indonesian Transportation Ministry told CNN that the agency was in the process of intensive discussions about additional training for the pilots who fly the MAX 8 planes, but did not elaborate on what any additional training would involve.

On Tuesday, the APA said while there were no immediate safety concerns about the MAX 8 planes, "the fact that this hasn't been told to pilots before calls into question what other info should we know about this aircraft."

"What seems to have happened here is that a new version or a modified anti-stall capacity was added which pushes the nose down automatically. If it's true, it is beyond comprehension that Boeing did not tell the airline and pilots about this," said CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest.

He added that if important information hadn't been communicated to pilots, it would be a matter for aviation regulators, rather than individual airlines.

"The issue is how much information to give the pilots about the systems on board so they can respond in an emergency," Quest said, adding that pilots are often overloaded with readouts and signals from multiple devices and monitors that can risk distracting them at the worst possible moment.

Lion Air sensor replaced

Boeing's operational bulletin, released last week, pointed airlines to "existing flight crew procedures" to address any erroneous readings related to "angle-of-attack" (AOA) sensors.

An AOA sensor is an instrument, similar to a small wind vane, that sits outside the plane just below the cockpit and sends information to its computers about the angle of the plane's nose relative to the oncoming air. The sensor helps to determine whether the plane is about to stall and dive.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) later issued its own directive that advised pilots about how to respond to similar problems.

Last week, investigators said the AOA sensor on board the aircraft had been replaced the day before the incident, but problems persisted.

Indonesian authorities confirmed last Wednesday that the AOA sensor was replaced after a flight from Manado, in North Sulawesi, to Denpasar, Bali, on October 28. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 then made another flight to Jakarta that same day, and the pilots reported further problems.

Investigators said the jet experienced problems on its last four flights -- including, crucially, the flight that crashed, according to Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT).

The FAA's directive affects 246 Boeing 737 Max aircraft worldwide, with 45 of these operated by US carriers that include Southwest, American and United Airlines.

Voice recorder still missing

More than two weeks after the crash, authorities are still searching for the plane's cockpit voice recorder (CVR), which is believed to be buried under deep mud. If found, it should reveal what happened in the cockpit in the final seconds of the flight.

Investigators are already examining the flight data recorder (FDR) that was pulled off the seabed, some 30 meters under water, on November 1. Preliminary findings suggested there were problems with the airspeed indicator on the past three flights before the crash.

The airspeed indicator is like a speedometer and tells the pilot how fast the plane is moving through the air. It does this by gathering data from the plane's pitot tube and the static port, which essentially compare differentials in the air pressure to arrive at the plane's speed and altitude.

After problems were reported with the airspeed indicator, the AOA sensor was replaced by a Lion Air technician in Bali before the plane departed for Jakarta on its penultimate flight.

Passengers on that flight told CNN that the plane experienced a significant drop in altitude shortly after takeoff. "After 10 minutes in the air the plane dropped as if it was losing power. People panicked. It dropped about 400 feet," passenger Robbi Gaharu said.

Once in Jakarta, a Lion Air technician checked the plane again and gave it the green light to fly on its final flight, from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 608519

Reported Deaths: 9693
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion840461335
Lake45349684
Allen32803548
Hamilton29394315
St. Joseph27380381
Elkhart24404345
Vanderburgh19411249
Tippecanoe17970138
Johnson15069295
Porter14783169
Hendricks14401248
Madison10965221
Vigo10726181
Clark10677144
Monroe9383110
Delaware9116134
LaPorte9065163
Howard8236144
Kosciusko806983
Warrick672999
Hancock6697104
Bartholomew6484100
Floyd6428110
Wayne6136162
Grant5991115
Dubois555579
Boone551168
Morgan541295
Henry507864
Marshall503984
Cass483263
Dearborn479845
Noble473059
Jackson425047
Shelby417581
Lawrence391079
Clinton373043
Gibson370359
Harrison348144
DeKalb347164
Montgomery345754
Knox335639
Miami321444
Steuben313745
Whitley307326
Wabash303251
Adams300936
Ripley298445
Putnam296850
Huntington291659
Jasper289034
White273243
Daviess270474
Jefferson263338
Decatur247683
Fayette247148
Greene239862
Posey239328
Wells236051
LaGrange228862
Scott225339
Clay222532
Randolph213548
Jennings198936
Sullivan192333
Spencer191321
Washington186423
Fountain184027
Starke175443
Jay167623
Owen165737
Fulton164030
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Carroll158015
Rush155118
Perry154229
Vermillion149134
Franklin148333
Tipton132332
Parke13078
Pike116926
Blackford111022
Pulaski97037
Newton90921
Brown88035
Benton86610
Crawford7999
Martin73713
Warren6817
Switzerland6615
Union6287
Ohio4907
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 859841

Reported Deaths: 10680
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin101171707
Cuyahoga855711125
Hamilton64017448
Montgomery43107418
Summit34836761
Lucas31350625
Butler30973232
Stark25786435
Warren19671140
Lorain19017223
Mahoning17321338
Lake16080154
Clermont15926111
Delaware1438878
Licking13204137
Trumbull12809316
Fairfield1279381
Greene12055137
Medina11591168
Clark10942265
Wood10348158
Allen9897126
Portage9296109
Miami916873
Richland9139118
Marion7459113
Tuscarawas7381182
Columbiana7327124
Pickaway726150
Wayne7034171
Muskingum703141
Erie6152129
Hancock552390
Ross548998
Scioto539164
Geauga508455
Darke470292
Ashtabula453073
Lawrence452654
Union451828
Sandusky436662
Mercer433589
Seneca430166
Huron428741
Auglaize422264
Shelby421222
Jefferson419269
Belmont416840
Washington388740
Athens38009
Putnam374975
Madison355129
Knox352622
Ashland344938
Fulton338443
Defiance330086
Crawford322374
Preble320637
Brown312921
Logan307332
Ottawa293943
Clinton290143
Williams278667
Highland275118
Jackson263845
Guernsey254125
Champaign252028
Fayette236530
Morrow23234
Perry231318
Holmes225474
Henry218749
Hardin213033
Coshocton205622
Van Wert202245
Gallia196726
Wyandot196051
Pike176217
Adams176115
Hocking172024
Carroll155616
Paulding144321
Noble120540
Meigs108624
Monroe100732
Harrison89121
Morgan83130
Vinton70213
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