Lion Air Crash Investigation Shows Troubling Signs in Boeing's New 737 Max

Boeing 737/8 of Lion Air at Singapore Changi-SIN,13/10/14

Boeing to Issue Alert Its Planes Can Abruptly Dive During Flight- ReportCC BY-SA 2.0 Alec Wilson PK-LOI

The doomed jet was a Boeing 737-Max 8, one of the world's newest and most advanced commercial passenger planes, and there is still no answer as to what caused the crash.

The Boeing 737 MAX has three such sensors, but erroneous readings could in some circumstances cause the Boeing 737 MAX to point the nose down sharply in order to keep air under the wings and avoid a stall, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The warning prompted the US Federal Aviation Administration to issue its own emergency airworthiness directive, telling airlines with Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft to follow correct procedures if pilots receive erroneous information from an AOA sensor.

Bloomberg had reported earlier that Boeing was set to issue a warning to companies using 737 Max airplanes about flight-information systems.

A Boeing Co. warning to 737 Max operators around the globe provides the first clues about how bad data from an airflow sensor might have contributed to the deadly crash of an Indonesian airliner last week.

Southwest issued a statement saying it has thoroughly reviewed Boeing's guidance.

The problem with the planes is in the "angle of attack" sensor which calculates the position of the plane relative to the air current. However, in rare instances, accidents have been caused by what investigators call a "startle factor". Simply put, it means that if there is an erroneous AOA input-one that indicates the aircraft has a high AOA and so is close to a stall-the aircraft system would respond by automatically bringing the aircraft nose down so as to increase the airspeed and prevent a stall.

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Pilots are trained to disengage the angle-of-attack sensors from the plane's computers when they get false readings. The "angle of attack" is the angle of the airplane or its wings compared with oncoming air or wind.

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.

"Whenever appropriate, Boeing, as part of its usual processes, issues bulletins or makes recommendations regarding the operation of its aircraft".

The jet dove into the Java Sea at high speed on October 29, minutes after its takeoff from Jakarta in Indonesia. Indonesian officials say that all 11 such aircraft have been tested and declared safe to fly.

"We will.conduct a special audit of the crews' qualifications and staff communication", transportation minister Budi Karya Sumadi told reporters Monday as he announced the probe into Lion's operations.

"The plane and the pilot have been grounded for investigation", said Pramintohadi Sukarno, a senior ministry official. Once that happens, it may try to right itself by pushing the nose down, reports the Straight Times.

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