Lion Air pilots tried frantically to stop nosedive

Reports: Readings show Lion Air pilots struggled with Boeing 737 system before crash
Pilot of doomed Lion Air flight 'fought continuously' against malfunctioning computers

29 November, 2018

"In our view, the plane was not airworthy" during its previous flight, said Nurcahyo Utomo, head of Indonesia's national transport safety committee (KNKT), in a press conference today in Jakarta.

Pilots who flew the aircraft before the crash told investigators that the anti-stall system engaged due to erroneous airspeed and altitude indicators, but the flight crew managed to adjust the plane's pitch manually by shutting the automated system off.

The findings by the National Transport Safety Committee (KNKT) suggest that Lion Air put the plane back into service despite it having had problems on earlier flights.

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".

The exact cause of the crash hasn't been determined.

Unions representing pilots at Southwest and American airlines said they were not properly informed about the new system during training.

The 737 Max is a new version of Boeing's original 737 and has become its fastest selling plane.

They reported the issue to Lion Air, which checked the 737 and approved it for its final takeoff the next day.

A mechanic worked on other sensors and equipment during a night shift before the early morning departure, but not on the so-called angle-of-attack vane, according to Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee.

CNN aviation analyst David Soucie said that the circumstances created by the plane's automatic correction would have made pilot intervention "impossible".

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But if the sensors were not sending the correct data to the MCAS system, the software likely calculated that the aircraft was approaching stall conditions while it was well within normal flight conditions during takeoff, pushing the aircraft into a dive.

The preliminary report did not assign blame, but did list new safety recommendations to Lion Air - "on top of earlier recommendations about the flight manual that have already been implemented by Boeing", Reuters reports.

"I think pilots can judge for themselves whether to continue", said Lion Air Managing Director Daniel Putut, a former pilot.

In a statement, plane manufacturer Boeing said that it was "deeply saddened" by the loss of the Lion Air flight.

In response to initial findings from the jet's flight data recorder, Boeing issued a bulletin to airlines reiterating procedures and advising them to add information on MCAS to flight manuals, which was followed by a US Federal Aviation Administration directive making that mandatory. "Therefore, he is responsible for ensuring the aircraft is in condition for safe flight and must discontinue the flight when un-airworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur".

The search for the cockpit voice recorder is proving hard after investigators said last week its "ping" signal was no longer being detected. The captain's stick shaker activated shortly after takeoff and remained nearly continuously active. It is flown or is on order by close to 40 airlines, with Lion Air in the process of receiving more than 200 of jets.

The report unveiled fresh details of efforts by pilots to steady the jet as they reported a "flight control problem", including the captain's last words to air traffic control asking to be cleared to "five thou" or 5,000 feet.

The company now faces lawsuits from victim's families, while Indonesian authorities will continue to work with USA agencies as part of an ongoing joint investigation.

Overall, Indonesia's aviation safety record has improved a lot since the days when even its national carrier Garuda was blacklisted from European and United States airports over safety concerns.

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