Boeing knew about missing alarm a year before first crash

Boeing knew about missing alarm a year before first crash

Pilots were unable to regain control of either plane, and both crashed, killing 346 people total.

American Airlines pilots submitted written comments to the FAA about their concern that Boeing is not taking adequate steps in new draft training proposals for the 737 MAX. Boeing did not originally reveal the warning only operated properly on planes flown by airlines that had purchased an optional AOA indicator. Other gauges tell pilots enough about the plane's speed, altitude, engine performance, and other factors to fly safely, the company said.

Senior Boeing leaders and the Federal Aviation Administration were not informed of the cockpit error until November 2018, after the Lion Air crash that left 189 people dead.

"However, Boeing's timely or earlier communication with [airlines] would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion", the spokesman said in a emailed statement emailed to Associated Press.

"The board of directors is not supposed to oversee every single technical detail that goes into an airplane, but it is their job to oversee risk and to set up guardrails and make sure the company is not taking on too much risk", he said.

"Accordingly", continued Boeing, "the software activated the AOA Disagree alert only if an airline opted for the AOA indicator".

"The question I have is just like we asked them in Reno, 'Is that all there is?' That's the biggest question", said Jon Weaks, head of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, referring to a meeting union leaders had with Boeing after the Lion Air crash.

The software is created to give pilots information about the plane's external sensors, which could potentially pinpoint equipment failures. It's not clear if Boeing alerted its airline customers to the issue.


In a November 27, 2018, meeting following the Lion Air crash, Boeing offered American Airlines pilots reassurance that the Lion Air scenario couldn't happen to them because they had this warning light.

Due to the developments, Boeing has said it will be issuing a display system software update on MAX planes before they are reinstated.

The AOA sensors feed the controversial MCAS trim system, another software feature that did not work properly.

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

Boeing did not tell airlines or the FAA about this decision. The company is working on a software fix it hopes will get the planes flying again this summer, as it faces congressional scrutiny and lawsuits by family members of those who died in the crashes. When it does, the company said, the sensor warning light will be standard.

Boeing also convened a Safety Review Board to consider whether the absence of the AOA Disagree alert from certain 737 MAX flight displays presented a safety issue, the statement said.

That update was never done before the MAX fleet was grounded in March following the second crash. The faulty sensors activate an anti-stall software that sent both planes into a nose-dive.

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