Boeing knew about missing alarm a year before first crash

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

Boeing said that its management was unaware of the issue until the Lion Air crash in Indonesia previous year, which killed 189 people, and the planes were not grounded until after another of the type operated by Ethiopian Airlines went down several months later, leaving a further 157 people dead.

The safety feature concerned was created to alert pilots when different sensors showed conflicting data.

The planemaker said it had meant to provide the feature as standard, but did not realise until deliveries had begun that it was only available if airlines purchased an optional indicator.

Boeing said Sunday that because in-house experts decided that the non-working light didn't affect safety, the company made a decision to fix the problem by disconnecting the alert from the optional indicators at the next planned update of cockpit display software.

According to the statement, "When the discrepancy between the requirements and the software was identified, Boeing followed its standard process for determining the appropriate resolution of such issues".

A review into the pilot warning system glitch had concluded that "existing functionality was acceptable" until a planned software update.

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said the agency was notified of the non-working warning light in November, after a Lion Air 737 Max crashed on October 29 in Indonesia. Growing scrutiny and mounting lawsuits by families of the crash victims could pose a challenge to Boeing's efforts to revive confidence in the 737 Max, assure aviation regulators worldwide of its safety and lift the ban on the now-grounded Max fleet.




The FAA put the bulk of blame on Boeing's shoulders, saying, "Boeing's timely or earlier communication with the operators would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion". In both cases, investigators have blamed incorrect "angle of attack" (AOA) sensor data for pitching the planes downwards to their doom.

Neither the Lion Air aircraft nor the Ethiopian Airlines jet had the feature. "All customers with previously delivered MAX airplanes will have the ability to activate the AOA Disagree alert", the statement said. In December, a safety review board convened by the manufacturer confirmed that the absence of a functional AOA disagree light didn't present a safety issue.

Boeing did not inform the airlines, the pilots and the public until April 29, six weeks after the second crash.

Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the union representing American Airlines pilots, told the New York Times that Boeing's statement suggests that it did not fully understand all the features of its own airplane.

All Boeing 737 Maxes have now been grounded. 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.

Nevertheless, it did not reportedly provide some carriers and pilots with consistent explanations even after the first tragedy and became "more forthcoming" with airlines only after the second 737 MAX crashed in Ethiopia.

It is also being reported Boeing did not do any trial of flight test to know what could happen to the MCAS system if the single AOA sensor fails.

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