Boeing admits knowing of 737 Max problem

Boeing admits it knew of flaw in 737 MAX planes before fatal crash

But within months of the plane's debut in 2017, Boeing said, its engineers realized that the sensor warning light only worked when airlines also bought a separate, optional feature.

The two AOA sensors on the Lion Air jet disagreed by a large margin, about 20 degrees, throughout the flight and even while the jet taxied on the ground before takeoff when both readings should have been zero. "The pilots may not have known the system even existed and engaged in a futile struggle to regain control of the aircraft".

A shoe rests amidst other debris just outside the crater where Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 crashed on March 10, 2019.

Airlines around the world grounded their 737 Max planes in March this year after the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, in which 157 people died.

In a statement from Boeing, the company acknowledged that the warning light indicator was not a standard feature on the 737 Max planes.

Boeing said senior management only "became aware of this issue in the aftermath of the Lion Air accident". He said FAA experts determined that the non-working cockpit indicator presented a low risk.

The FAA put the bulk of blame on Boeing's shoulders, saying, "Boeing's timely or earlier communication with the operators would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion".

"The board of directors is not supposed to oversee every single technical detail that goes into an airplane, but it is their job to oversee risk and to set up guardrails and make sure the company is not taking on too much risk", he said.

After that, Boeing did an internal review that found "that the absence of the AOA Disagree alert did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation", according to a Boeing statement.

This feature was meant to be standard to all planes but Boeing inadvertently only made it available for airlines that purchased an optional indicator.

Disagree alerts would notify pilots whether a sensor is malfunctioning or not.

The software is created to give pilots information about the plane's external sensors, which could potentially pinpoint equipment failures. Boeing told airlines that the warning light was standard equipment on all Max jets. The warning light would have turned on prior to both tragic crashes, but it is unlikely it would have given pilots enough time to fully correct the issues and avoid crashing, according to the newspaper.

Right from the start of the design process at Boeing, MacMillan said board members told him they were mostly focused on rushing a new plane model to market since the company was already overdue and over budget on a different plane model. They criticized Boeing's original software design that chose to rely on data from a single AOA sensor, noting that a scenario in which a breakdown of the single sensor due to defects was not considered.

"Neither the angle of attack indicator nor the AOA Disagree alert are necessary for the safe operation of the airplane", Boeing said.

Boeing didn't tell airlines or the FAA about this decision.

Moving forward, Boeing said it hoped to win approval from the FAA and foreign regulators to get the MAX flying again before summer in the northern hemisphere is over.

Boeing has admitted it knew about a missing feature on its 737 Max plans a year before the first of two fatal crashes. Had pilots been alerted to the change in pitch by a functioning AOA alarm, the accidents may have been averted.

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into whether Boeing misled regulators about features on the plane including flight-control software at the heart of the crash investigations.

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