Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Indonesian Lion Air jet was "not airworthy" on penultimate flight

National Transportation Safety Committee investigator Nurcahyo Utomo holds a model of an airplane during a press conference on the committee's preliminary findings on their investigation on the crash of Lion Air flight 610 in Jakarta Indonesia Wednesda Reports: Readings show Lion Air pilots struggled with Boeing 737 system before crash
Leonard Rios | 29 November, 2018, 08:00

Last week, KNKT investigator Nurcahyo Utomo told parliament that the jet's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) - an automated modification new to the model that crashed - activated and directed the jet's nose down to prevent a stall.

Previous iterations of 737s would have switched off key automatic control features when the pilot first pulled back the control column, a standard manual override feature in generations of airplanes.

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. Similarly, an "angle of attack" sensor used to measure airspeed over the aircraft's wings was replaced a day before.

The flight data reveals that the aircraft's systems had detected an imminent stall due to the faulty indicator, causing the "stick-shaker" (which vibrates the aircraft's steering-wheel and warns the captain) to activate and remain so throughout most of the flight.

"The problem is if multiple malfunctions occur all at once, which one should be prioritized?"

"We don't receive any information from Boeing or from (the) regulator about that additional training for our pilots", Zwingli Silalahi, Lion Air's operational director told CNN on November 14. The manufacturer played up the possibility of pilot error.

At Indonesia's request, Boeing issued an advisory about MCAS to airlines earlier this month. They also ran safety checklists.

Several experts said, however, that Boeing likely will have to consider changes in the new anti-stall system, perhaps developing an algorithm to disregard sensor readings that appear off-base.

They ask the arrivals controller to block the air space 3,000 ft above and below them so they can avoid other traffic.

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Lion Air CEO Edward Sirait on Wednesday evening rejected some media reports quoting KNKT that the airline's Boeing 737 passenger jet that crashed on October 29 was not airworthy since its penultimate flight from Denpasar to Jakarta.

While NTSC awaits the arrival of a specialized ship to continue its search for the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder, data from the recovered flight data recorder revealed that the pilots struggled to maintain consistent pitch, speed and altitude throughout the 11-minute accident flight.

It noted the airline's maintenance work and procedures had failed to fix repeated problems with the aircraft.

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

However they did note that the aircraft was still in service despite a fault with the airspeed indicator.

Lemme described "a deadly game of tag" in which the plane pointed down, the pilots countered by manually aiming the nose higher, only for the sequence to repeat about five seconds later. Pilots reportedly made over two dozen attempts to regain control of the plummeting aircraft, but failed, losing radio contact and crashing just 13 minutes after taking off from the capital city of Jakarta.

Utomo said that Lion Air's maintenance team checked the jet and cleared it for take-off the next morning.

"We still don't know yet, if it contributed or not", he said in response to a question. That will take time still - KNKT said it plans to finish a complete study within 12 months of the accident.

The new 737 MAX 8 faced struggles immediately during takeoff from Jakarta on October 28 that may have overwhelmed the pilots, according to black box data revealed in the Indonesia National Transportation Safety Commission's report.

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