Boeing rolls out safety feature on the 737 MAX aircraft which will be outfitted with a warning light for malfunctions in the anti-stall system suspected on 29 Oct 2018 fatal crash in Indonesia, an industry source told AFP on 21 Mar 2019 Thursday, standardizing a feature previously sold as an optional extra.
The development comes as the Boeing struggles to cope with the fallout from both the Indonesia Lion Air Flight 610 crash and another in Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 this month March 2019, which have cast a spotlight on the safety certification process and shaken confidence in a plane that is crucial to its future plans.
Known as a “disagree light,” this safety feature will become standard and is among the modifications the company will present to US authorities and clients in the coming days, the source said on condition of anonymity.
Neither the Lion Air aircraft which crashed in Indonesia, nor the Ethiopian Airlines jet, had the feature, the source said. More than 300 people perished in the two cases.
American Airlines, which operates 24 737 MAX 8, had bought the option, anticipating potential malfunctions, a source close to the matter told AFP.
So too had Southwest Airlines, the plane’s biggest customer, which also bought an additional “Primary Flight Display” option, according to a spokesperson. Modifications are in the final stages but Boeing wants to be certain this meets the expectations of regulators and customers, the industry source said.
Earlier this week the FAA has released a statement announcing that the Boeing 737 Max aircraft are temporary grounded. The grounding is expected to last weeks until at least this year May 2019.
Neither Boeing nor the Federal Aviation Agency offered comment when contacted. But an industry expert, Scott Hamilton from Leeham Company, said the system should have already been included.
“Instrument disagree warnings should be standard and they are important for pilots to know when instruments disagree with each other,” he said.
“Boeing made this an option because it could, and make money by selling it. Simple as that.”
The warning light will be activated if sensors transmit incorrect data to the plane’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which is intended to detect and correct stalls by reducing the aircraft’s pitch.
Preliminary results in the investigation into October’s Lion Air crash in Indonesia indicate an “angle of attack” sensor, which feeds data to the MCAS, had malfunctioned.
But despite malfunctioning, the sensor continued transmitting data to the plane’s onboard electronics, including the MCAS.
That system takes control of the aircraft, pointing its nose downward, even if the pilot resists, so long as the system is not deactivated, something the Lion Air crew did not know.