Lion Air: Sensor was replaced day before crash but problems persisted

Lamar Ellis
November 8, 2018

The Federal Aviation Administration also plans to issue an airworthiness directive for the plane in question.

The watchdog had also sought details about the plane crash from Boeing and United States regulator Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).

Neither carrier said they had received any reports from pilots of issues with the sensor, which calculates the "angle of attack", a measurement of the angle of the plane's wing and airflow needed to maintain lift.

The incident comes as Boeing issued a warning to airlines about how to address incorrect cockpit readings as investigators probe what happened before Lion Air Flight 610 plunged into the Java Sea, killing 189 people. Based on the bulletin, it appears that the nose of the Lion Air aircraft pitched down during the climb-out phase in response to an erroneous input from the sensor. Under some circumstances, such as when pilots are flying manually, the Max jets will automatically try to push down the nose if they detect that an aerodynamic stall is possible, a person familiar with the matter said. The plane plummeted into the sea a day after having a critical sensor replaced. Boeing didn't recommend new inspections or other action for operators. The stock had climbed 24 percent this year through Tuesday.

United said: "We are in receipt of a Flight Crew Operations Manual Bulletin, issued by Boeing, which applies to the 16 737 Max 8 aircraft now in our fleet".

There are also procedures for pilots to follow in the event of missing data from damaged sensors on the fuselage, but it remained unclear how much time the crew of flight JT610 had to respond at the relatively low altitude of around 5,000 feet.

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Boeing's advisory said the plane experienced "erroneous input from one of its [angle of attack] sensors".

Boeing's bulletin was the first indication that an error with the aircraft's systems may have caused problems for the Lion Air flight, which took off from Jakarta.

Meanwhile, authorities have extended their search as they collect more body parts and shattered debris from the spot where the plane crashed during a routine one-hour flight from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang.

On the basis of the Oct 28 flight, Indonesian investigators said they'd provided recommendations to Boeing for distribution to airlines around the world about how to deal with a similar situation.

In fact, the 737 remains the best-selling airliner of all time, while the new MAX variant quickly became quickest selling plane in Boeing history.

Investigators are likely focused on how a single sensor's failure resulted in a faulty command that didn't take into account information from a second sensor, said John Cox, CEO of Safety Operating Systems. But the urgency of a fatal accident can trigger a flurry of such notices. The data are fed into computers made by Honeywell International Inc. for the plane.

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