According to a fresh report in The Wall Street Journal, Boeing appeared to have withheld information about suspected malfunctions with a new flight-control feature, which are believed to have played a role in the deadly Indonesian Lion Air jet crash. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials and safety experts leading the investigation into the crash told the WSJ that the automatic stall-prevention feature introduced recently to Boeing models, including the 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9, may abruptly thrust a plane into a steep dive despite pilots’ efforts to continue flying it.
Investigating experts are still looking into the matter, trying to find out whether this was the case in last month’s accident, when the Lion Air flight en route from Jakarta dove into the Java Sea on October 29.
Boeing reportedly warned airlines about the newly introduced feature and risks it hypothetically carries in a safety bulletin issued days after the tragedy, which points to the fact that pilots couldn't have been aware of the new computer mechanism and risks connected with flight control at the moment of the crash, shortly before and even immediately after it.
“It’s pretty asinine for them to put a system on an airplane and not tell the pilots who are operating the airplane, especially when it deals with flight controls,” the WSJ cited one of the officials, Captain Mike Michaelis, chairman of the Safety Committee for the Allied Pilots Association, as saying. Boeing hasn’t yet officially commented on the reports.
In a parallel move, the newspaper quoted an unnamed high-profile Boeing representative as saying that the company had decided to leave out some details about the new models of aircraft so as to not feed pilots with excessive information. Meanwhile, the airline is conducting a probe into the accident, which left a staggering 189 people dead late last month, stressing that it is “taking every measure” to understand the root cause of it.
Flight JT610 of Indonesia's Lion Air airline, heading to the Indonesian city of Pangkal Pinang, lost contact with traffic control on October 29 shortly after take-off in Jakarta. Some time afterwards, the plane plunged into the Java Sea, killing all passengers and crew that were on board.
Over a week after the crash, the FAA issued an airworthiness directive for 246 Boeing 737 Max aircraft worldwide, 45 of which are operating in the United States. According to Reuters, the latest directive stipulates that operators "revise the airplane flight manual to give the flight crew horizontal stabilizer trim procedures to follow under some conditions." A bit earlier, investigators came to believe that Lion Air pilots were battling with the plane's computer system as it suddenly sent the aircraft into a steep dive.