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Boeing didn't tell airlines that safety alert wasn't on

Boeing didn't tell airlines that safety alert wasn't on

Boeing has admitted it discovered a safety alert in the cockpit of its 737 MAX plane was not working as intended, yet it did not disclose that fact to airlines or United States federal regulators until after one of the planes crashed months later.

After the Lion Air crash, King said, Boeing notified Southwest that it had discovered the lights didn't work without the optional angle-of-attack indicators, so Southwest began adding the optional feature too. Boeing believed it had made the alarm a standard feature, but later discovered it was only provided to airlines which purchased it as an optional extra. A Boeing review "determined that the absence of the AOA Disagree alert did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation", concluding that "the existing functionality was acceptable until the alert and the indicator could be delinked in the next planned display system software update", Boeing said.

The 737 Max was grounded worldwide over safety concerns following the Ethiopian crash in March, killing 157 people.

The statement is the first time Boeing has explicitly admitted to issues in the production of the 737 Max, but the firm maintains it did not affect plane safety. And the company didn't publicly disclose the software error behind the problem for another six weeks, in the interim leaving the flying public and, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman, the agency's acting chief unaware. The company has yet to submit a software patch to the FAA for review. Boeing told airlines that the warning light was standard equipment on all Max jets.

The alert only worked on Max aircraft for which customers bought an added optional feature, Boeing said in a statement Sunday.

The software is created to give pilots information about the plane's external sensors, which could potentially pinpoint equipment failures.

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Pilots in the ill fated Ethiopian plane also reported difficulty in controlling the aircraft just like those who were at the helm of Lion Air.

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". They criticized Boeing's original software design that made a decision to rely on data from a single AOA sensor, noting that a scenario in which a breakdown of the single sensor due to defects was not considered. 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 briefed the FAA's Seattle aircraft certification office in November 2018 and the information was forwarded to the FAA's Corrective Action Review Board for evaluation.

Neither the FAA or Boeing interfered with the fleet's operations until the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019.

The AOA indicator lets pilots know if one of the AOA sensors is not working, while the disagree alert shows if the sensors contradict each other.

The panel determined the issue to be "low risk", and said Boeing would have to fix it as part of an overall package of enhancements to the Max in response to the Lion Air accident.


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