New york (AFP) – Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft will be outfitted with a warning light for malfunctions in the anti-stall system suspected in October’s fatal crash in Indonesia, an industry source told AFP, standardizing a feature previously sold as an optional extra.
Boeing is struggling to cope with the fallout from the Indonesia and Ethiopia crashes, which have cast a spotlight on the safety certification process and shaken confidence in a plane that is crucial to its future plans.
Known as a “disagree light,” this safety feature will become standard and is among the modifications the company will present to US authorities and clients in the coming days, the source said on condition of anonymity.
Neither the Lion Air aircraft nor the Ethiopian Airlines jet, had the feature. More than 300 people perished in the two cases.
American Airlines, which operates 24 737 Max 8, bought the option, anticipating potential malfunctions, a source close to the matter told AFP.
So too had Southwest Airlines, the plane’s biggest customer, which also bought an additional “Primary Flight Display” option.
Modifications are in the final stages but Boeing wants to be certain this meets the expectations of regulators and customers, the industry source said.
But an industry expert, Scott Hamilton from Leeham Company, said the system should have already been included.
“Instrument disagree warnings should be standard and they are important for pilots to know when instruments disagree with each other,” he said.
“Boeing made this an option because it could make money by selling it. Simple as that.”
The warning light will be activated if sensors transmit incorrect data to the plane’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which is intended to detect and correct stalls by reducing the aircraft’s pitch.
Preliminary investigation into October’s Lion Air crash in Indonesia indicate an “angle of attack” sensor, which feeds data to the MCAS, had malfunctioned.
But despite malfunctioning, the sensor continued transmitting data to the plane’s onboard electronics, including the MCAS.
That system takes control of the aircraft, pointing its nose downward, even if the pilot resists, so long as the system is not deactivated, something the Lion Air crew did not know.
US and Ethiopian authorities said the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 near Addis Ababa bore “similarities” to last year’s Lion Air crash.
The Ethiopian Airlines crash led to the global grounding of the 737 Max.
A criminal investigation is currently underway in the United States, with authorities reportedly scrutinizing how the plane received safety certification from US aviation regulators.