Boeing Didn’t Tell Airlines That Safety Alert Wasn’t On

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane being built for India-based Jet Airways lands following a test flight at Boeing Field in Seattle last month

Boeing had told airlines and pilots that the so-called AOA disagree warning was standard across the Max fleet, as on a previous generation of 737 jets. As a result, the AOA Disagree light, which warned pilots of discrepancies, functioned only for airlines that bought the optional indicator.

Following the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the October 2018 crash of a Lion Air-operated 737 MAX 8 into the Java Sea that killed in total 346 people, a number of countries, including the US, China, India, Egypt, Vietnam, and European Union blocked the Boeing 737 MAX 8 from their airspace while investigations regarding the crashes are carried out.

"Senior company leadership was not involved in the review and first became aware of this issue in the aftermath of the Lion Air accident", added Boeing.

The malfunction the warning light was created to point to, a problem in one of the jet's angle of attack (AOA) sensors, was a part of both crashes.

After the Lion Air crash, Ms King said, Boeing notified Southwest that it had discovered the lights did not work without the optional angle-of-attack indicators, so Southwest began adding the optional feature too.

Boeing said Sunday that because in-house experts decided that the non-working light didn't affect safety, the company chose to fix the problem by disconnecting the alert from the optional indicators at the next planned update of cockpit display software.

The US Federal Aviation Administration told Reuters news agency that Boeing had not informed it of the software issue until November 2018, a month after the Lion Air crash.

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Boeing said that its management was unaware of the issue until the Lion Air crash in Indonesia a year ago, which killed 189 people, and the planes were not grounded until after another of the type operated by Ethiopian Airlines went down several months later, leaving a further 157 people dead. "They provide supplemental information only, and have never been considered safety features on commercial jet transport airplanes".

The software delivered to Boeing linked the signal with a second cockpit gauge - available for a fee - that displayed the readings from the two vanes.

In October, a Boeing Max 737 Indonesian airliner crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board. FAA employees determined that it presented a low risk, the spokesperson said in a statement, reported KTLA-5, before noting that "Boeing's timely or earlier communication with (airlines) would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion".

Sunday's statement marked the first time since the two fatal accidents that Boeing explicitly acknowledged doing something inadvertently in the development of the 737 Max, albeit on an issue that it contends has no impact on safety.

Tajer said that even though his airline had installed the optional feature and so had a functional warning light, American Airlines pilots are still unhappy at what he described as newly discovered "misdirection" by Boeing.

This is on top of a promised software update to MCAS to stop it from attempting to push the 737 MAX's nose towards the ground. Boeing went on to reiterate that when it made the discovery of the faulty software in 2017, it did not warrant any recall after a thorough review.

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