Lion Air crash: Pilots fought automatic safety system before plane plunged

Reports: Readings show Lion Air pilots struggled with Boeing 737 system before crash

A Lion Air jet that crashed into the sea off Indonesia last month was not in an airworthy condition on its second-to-last flight, when pilots experienced similar problems to those on its doomed last journey, investigators said on Wednesday.

The Boeing 737 MAX was headed for the town of Pangkal Pinang on October 29, 2018, when it crashed just 13 minutes after take-off from Jakarta.

However, Nurcahyo Utomo told the BBC: "We haven't found the information in the manual relevant to the new feature to the 737- MAX, related to the feature for the stall prevention system". Pilots switched off the automatic system, and used manual controls to fly and stabilise the plane.

Nurcahyo Utomo, an investigator for Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee, at a news conference announcing preliminary findings on their investigation on the crash of Lion Air flight 610, in Jakarta, Indonesia on Wednesday.

The sensor, called an angle-of-attack vane, or AOA, malfunctioned in earlier flights.

The nose dipped more than a dozen times during the 11-minute flight on October 29, but the crew managed able to pull it up repeatedly before they finally lost control and the Boeing 737 crashed into the Java Sea.

Once the jet was airborne, the pilots appeared to have been overwhelmed, said another of the crash investigators, Ony Suryo Wibowo.

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The investigation is continuing with help from United States regulators and Boeing.

In a statement following the release of the report, Boeing played up the possibility of pilot error, saying the aircraft the company manufactured was sound. The captain was using his controls to bring the airline's nose up, but an automated anti-stall system was pushing it down.

They repeatedly told air traffic control they had a flight control problem.

"This is the basis of our recommendation to Lion Air". The government report suggests the airplane should have been removed from service because of earlier reports about problems.

Lion must take steps "to improve the safety culture" and bolster the quality of its flight logs, the transport agency said.

There were other issues pervading the aircraft, pertaining to its airspeed and altitude sensors, the report noted.

Shortly after the catastrophe, the airline issued a notice to pilots urging them to be more proactive in reporting problems.

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After landing, the pilot reported the malfunction to the engineers, who performed a number of maintenance checks on the aircraft before it was used for the Pangkalpinang flight.

"Had they fixed the airplane, we would not have had the accident", he said.

Coming from an aviation family, she said that Suneja's sister wanted to follow in his footsteps, but that the fatal accident had shaken her faith in the technology.

Boeing, in a statement released after the report's publication, said the company appreciates KNKT's efforts to investigate the cause of the accident, and is "taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident".

Boeing has a great deal at stake in defending its plane.

The findings will heighten concerns there were problems with key systems in one of the world's newest and most advanced commercial passenger planes. Earlier this month, pilots at American Airlines and Southwest Airlines complained that they had not been given all information about the new automated anti-stall safety system on the MAX.

Boeing says the procedure for dealing with a so-called runaway stabilizer, under which anti-stall systems push the nose down even when the plane is not entering a stall or losing lift, had not changed between earlier version of the 737 and the newly delivered 737 MAX.

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