Pilots says Boeing didn't disclose jet's new control feature

Daniel Fowler
November 14, 2018

Lion Air JT610, a new MAX8 with only about 800 hours on the airframe, plunged into the Java Sea off Jakarta on October 29, killing all 189 people aboard. "The bottom line here is the 737 MAX is safe and safety is a core value for us... we ensure that airplanes are safe". The oversight may have sealed the fate of a Max aircraft that crashed in Indonesia in October.

Two US pilot unions at carriers flying the Max said on Monday that the company didn't adequately spell out how the new system worked in training and manuals.

The deliveries data came a day after Bloomberg News reported that USA pilot unions said they hadn't been notified or properly trained on a new safety system for the Max.

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On the Pilots of America online forum, an American Airlines pilot posted an informational bulletin from a pilot's association and added this: "We had NO idea that this MCAS even existed".

Jefferies analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu says the firm's estimate "assumes deliveries of the 737 reach an average rate of 70/month in Nov. -Dec., which appears feasible, but rather hard".

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"It is information that we were not privy to in training or in any other manuals or materials", he said. A technical issue that Boeing flagged in a safety warning after the deadly 737 MAX 8 crash in Indonesia could happen to any other aircraft, and it's "not unlikely" that the manufacturer knew about it, aviation experts told RT.

Until now, public attention has focused mainly on potential maintenance problems including a faulty sensor for the "angle of attack", a vital piece of data needed to help the aircraft fly at the right angle to the currents of air and prevent a stall.

"We are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this incident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved", the company said in a statement by email.

Aviation Week said it verified that the MCAS system wasn't covered in the operations manual or in the supplemental training materials provided to pilots coming over to the 737 MAX from the previous generation of 737s. Incorrect data readings can trigger the MCAS system to force the plane into a nose-dive, even if the plane is not on autopilot. Still, the response from regulators and pilot representatives hints at a broader reckoning in the commercial aerospace industry over one of Boeing's marquee jets, the 737 MAX8.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal Monday night, what the company did not tell operators and flight crews is that the stall-prevention system may, under certain unusual circumstances, unexpectedly push the plane's nose down with such force that the crew can not pull it back up.

An AOA sensor is an instrument, similar to a small wind vane, that sits outside the plane just below the cockpit and sends information to its computers about the angle of the plane's nose relative to the oncoming air. "But the pilots don't know this and are not trained on this". "That is positive news, but it is no assurance that the system will not fail".

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