Doomed Lion Air 737 almost crashed one day before tragedy

Part of the black box of Lion Air flight JT 610. A crew that flew the same plane the evening before had the same problem with the plane's nose
Boeing says finalizing software upgrade, revising pilot training for 737 Max
Author

21 March, 2019

Wheels from the crashed Lion Air flight JT 610. Those reviews scramble an ambitious schedule set by Boeing and could undercut the FAA's reputation around the world.

The likelihood is that the MCAS was involved in the recent crashes of both the Ethiopian and the Lion Air aircraft.

Boeing has said there is a documented way for dealing with the problem. Three sources discussed them on condition of anonymity.

But there are clear doubts about meeting that timetable. They struggled to get their plane up before it hit the ground. Regulators around the world have nearly always accepted that country's decision.

The hearing on federal oversight on commercial aviation by the Senate commerce subcommittee on aviation and space will include the US Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) acting administrator Dan Elwell, National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt and transportation department inspector general Calvin Scovel.

That practice is being frayed, however, in the face of growing questions about the FAA's certification of the Max.

The Ethiopian Airlines disaster on 10 March that killed 157 people led to the grounding of Boeing's marquee MAX fleet globally and sparked a high-stakes inquiry for the aviation industry.

Boeing has been making software modifications to the best-selling aircraft's MCAS flight stabilization system since a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 crashed in Java Sea October 13, 2018, killing 189 people.

A source told Reuters that the trim system was not mentioned in the recording, just the airspeed and altitude of the plane. Satellite data suggests both planes had similar, erratic flight paths before crashing minutes after takeoff.

Wheels from the crashed Lion Air flight JT 610
ULET IFANSASTI GETTYWheels from the crashed Lion Air flight JT 610

Boeing said it would cooperate with the DoT audit.

The message was the same from Canada's Transport minister, Marc Garneau.

But given the U.S. probe, Canada said it would re-examine its acceptance of the FAA validation and do its own independent certification. They're also checking if the pilots were trained about the system. It also said the pilot and co-pilot are supposed to understand the process. However, officials in Europe and Canada will want to test it themselves, instead of depending only on USA approval.

Boeing also refused to comment to CNN on the matter Wednesday.

The FAA is getting a new chief.

The FAA isn't the only agency Trump has failed to supply with permanent leadership.

Boeing too is shifting personnel.

Lion Air did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment. The executive, John Hamilton, has experience in airplane design and regulatory standards. He asked the inspector general to investigate the Trump administration's "lackluster" response to an earlier crash in Indonesia a year ago, as well as whether FAA or Boeing employees had engaged "in any unethical, improper or criminal activity during the certification process". That program has come under criticism from critics including members of Congress.

Another, separate investigation is already underway by Scovel and the US Department of Justice's Criminal Division. In the wake of the two accidents, questions have emerged about how Boeing's design of the new 737 model were approved. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican.

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