JAKARTA: Boeing is under tremendous pressure over the Indonesia airplane disaster as the owner of the unfortunate jet joined a US pilots’ group in alleging the company failed to warn pilots about the potential hazards of a new safety feature implicated in the crash.
A top Lion Air official told media that the manual for Boeing’s 737 MAX 8, the model that crashed into the Java Sea last month, killing all 189 on board, did not include a warning about a critical feature that could cause the plane to dive.
Zwingli Silalahi, the Indonesian airline’s Operational Director, said the manual did not tell pilots that in certain situations, the plane’s stall-prevention system could automatically trigger a response, such as lowering the airplane’s nose, to prevent or exit a stall.
“We don’t have that in the manual of the Boeing 737 MAX 8. That’s why we don’t have the special training for that specific situation,” Zwingli said Wednesday, 15 November.
Investigators are examining whether a sensor on the outside of the plane transmitted incorrect data that could have triggered the stall-prevention system.
The airline’s claims come after Boeing was similarly accused Tuesday, 14 November by the Allied Pilots Association (APA) of withholding information about the potential danger of the plane’s new features.
Lion Air Flight 610 crashed shortly after taking off from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on October 29. Investigators believe the MAX 8 plane may have experienced problems with several sensors.
Boeing said last week that a safety bulletin issued to aircraft operators in the wake of the crash was merely meant to reinforce existing procedures. Both Lion Air and the APA have now rejected the company’s assertion.
“They (Boeing) didn’t provide us all the info we rely on when we fly an aircraft,” Capt. Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the APA group, told on Tuesday. “The bulletin is not reaffirming, it’s enlightening and adding new info.”
Zwingli added that Boeing’s safety bulletin did not suggest additional training for pilots operating that aircraft. “We didn’t receive any information from Boeing or from regulator about that additional training for our pilots,” he 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.
On Wednesday, a Boeing spokesperson said in an email that it could not “discuss specifics of an ongoing investigation” and that the company had “provided two updates for our operators around the world that re-emphasize existing procedures for these situations.”
“We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX. Safety remains our top priority and is a core value for everyone at Boeing,” the spokesperson said.
While speaking to media, the head of the Directorate of Airworthiness and Aircraft Operations (DOAAO) at the Indonesian Transportation Ministry told that the agency was in the process of intensive discussions about additional training for the pilots who fly the MAX 8 planes, but did not elaborate on what any additional training would involve.
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.”
Boeing’s operational bulletin, released last week, pointed airlines to “existing flight crew procedures” to address any erroneous readings related to “angle-of-attack” (AOA) sensors.
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. The sensor helps to determine whether the plane is about to stall and dive.