A Lion Air official told CNN Wednesday, that Boeing’s manual for its 737 MAX 8 model, the near-new passenger jet that crashed 13 minutes after take-off from Jakarta last month Java Sea last month, had nothing in it at all about a critical feature that could trigger the plane to dive.
Lion Air’s operational director Zwingli Silalahi, said the manual failed to alert pilots that the jet’s stall-prevention system could, in certain near-stall situations, trigger an automated response, that included lowering the airplane’s nose.
“We don’t have that in the manual of the Boeing 737 MAX 8,” Zwingli said Wednesday.
“That’s why we don’t have the special training for that specific situation.”
Air crash investigators are trying to determine if an external sensor sent exactly this kind of erroneous data that could have triggered the stall-prevention system.
Lion Air’s allegations appear to support comments made by the Allied Pilots Association (APA) that allege Boeing withheld information about the danger of the Max 8’s new features.
Lion Air Flight JT610 fell into waters off Jakarta on October 29, killing all 189 on board.
Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued directives last week telling flight crews about the system, which is designed to provide extra protection against pilots losing control.
Boeing’s has since said that its safety bulletin was only meant to reinforce existing procedures.
Subsequently many aviators, unions, and flight-training departments began to realize that none of the documentation including pilot’s manuals for the Max 8 included an explanation of the system, according to the APA.
Indonesian investigators said on Monday that more training was surely required for Boeing 737 MAX pilots after realizing the in-flight situation now thought to have faced the crew of JT610 was not a part of Boeing’s flight manual.
US pilots were also not aware of potential risks, two US pilot unions told Reuters.
“We don’t like that we weren’t notified,” Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told Bloomberg on Tuesday.
Both Lion Air and the APA have now rejected Boeing’s claim about merely reinforcing existing procedures, describing the bulletin as “enlightening” and in no way “reaffirming.”
“They (Boeing) didn’t provide us all the info we rely on when we fly an aircraft,” Captain Dennis Tajer, an APA spokesman told CNN.
According to Zwingli, Boeing’s bulletin did not call for any special Max 8 pilot training.
“We didn’t receive any information from Boeing or from regulator about that additional training for our pilots,” Zwingli said.
Zwingli said that if the result of the ongoing investigation — conducted by Indonesia’s National Transportation Commission, the US National Transportation Safety Board, and Boeing — found that additional training was necessary, Lion Air pilots would undertake it.
Boeing has said it will not “discuss specifics of an ongoing investigation.”
Although the company did tell CNN that it had “provided two updates for our operators around the world that re-emphasize existing procedures for these situations.”
On Tuesday, the APA said while there were no immediate safety concerns about the MAX 8 planes, “the fact that this hasn’t been told to pilots before calls into question what other info should we know about this aircraft.”
“What seems to have happened here is that a new version or a modified anti-stall capacity was added which pushes the nose down automatically, CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest. said.
“If it’s true, it is beyond comprehension that Boeing did not tell the airline and pilots about this.”
The FAA’s directive that advised pilots about how to respond to similar problems impacts 246 Boeing 737 Max aircraft worldwide.
There are some 45 of these passenger jets run by US carriers.
Last week, investigators including Indonesia’s National Transportation Commission, the US National Transportation Safety Board, and Boeing said the angle-of-attack or AOA sensor that helps determine if a plane will stall or dive had been replaced the day before the incident, but problems remained.
The AOA sensor on the Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 was replaced after a flight from North Sulawesi to Bali, on October 28. During a later flight to Jakarta that same day, pilots reported further AOA problems.
The AOA sensor was replaced by a Lion Air technician in Bali before the plane departed for Jakarta on its penultimate flight.
In the end, Lion Air’s almost-new Boeing 737 Max 8 jet encountered difficulties on all of its final four flights, the head of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, the KNKT, Soerjanto Tjahjono said.
Meanwhile authorities have still failed to get their hands on JT610’s cockpit voice recorder (CVR), which may very well be hidden under the muddy seafloor off Jakarta.
It is hoped the CVR could reveal what went down in the cockpit in the final moments of the flight.
Investigators already have the flight data recorder (FDR), which was found resting on the seafloor, on November 1.
The earliest analysis suggests there were problems with the airspeed indicator on the past three flights before the crash.
The KNKT has indicated it will continue the search for the still-missing cockpit voice recorder (CVR), the second black box of the aircraft, with the help of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) divers.
It is thought this second device, which may yield up the final moments inside the cockpit of flight JT610, could be buried deep within the mud of the Java Sea floor.
Basarnas divers have already recovered the other black box, the flight data recorder (FDR).
After almost two weeks in the waters off Jakarta, Basarnas finally called off the search for difficult search for victims over the weekend.
Basarnas had extended the search mission twice since the plane dove into the sea last month.
The Jakarta Post reports that Basarnas eventually recovered as many as 196 bags containing human remains.
The victims’ families participated in a mass prayer on board two Navy ships in the Java Sea last Tuesday.
As of Friday, there were 79 victims formally identified in total.
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