Lion Air crash investigation reveals how pilots fought hard to save plane


Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) sub-committee head for air accidents, Nurcahyo Utomo, speaks next to deputy chief of KNKT Haryo Satmiko and KNKT air crash investigator Ony Suryo Wibowo during a news conference on its investigation into a Lion Air plane crash last month, in Jakarta, Indonesia November 28, 2018. The plane crashed just 15 minutes after the flight took off from Jakarta on October 29, with the system showing it dipped up and down more than 26 times during that brief period.

Citing information due to be released as part of preliminary findings prepared by Indonesian investigators, The New York Times and The Seattle Times reported that the pilots fought for 10 minutes to keep the Boeing jet's nose from being pushed downward, due to incorrect sensor readings.

The Allied Pilots Association (APA) and Lion Air's operational director claim Boeing's operational manual for the MAX 8 did not contain adequate information about the MCAS system.

The crash was the first involving the latest model of Boeing's best-selling 737 series, which entered service a year ago.

The pilots of that flight reported problems to Lion Air's maintenance team, which checked the jet and cleared it for take-off on the doomed flight the next morning. Similarly, an "angle of attack" sensor used to measure airspeed over the aircraft's wings was replaced a day before.

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Utomo said the agency had not determined if the anti-stall system, which was not explained to pilots in manuals, was a contributing factor. The preliminary findings, based on the data retrieved from the flight data recorder, confirm that the jetliner experienced speed and altitude issues on its previous flights and states it was in an "un-airworthy" condition on the day it crashed. To prevent a stall, the automated anti-stall system directed the aircraft's nose down.

The report advised that Lion Air ensure it follows proper operating procedures to improve its "safety culture and to enable the pilot to make proper decisions".

When the sensors transmitted faulty data to the cockpit of Flight 610, the new MCAS system sensed a stall - that point at which a plane is so vertical that it is in danger of falling from the sky - and sought to correct for it by repeatedly pointing the nose of the aircraft down.

The preliminary report details what is known by authorities about the short time the plane was in the air, but investigators said it did not give a definitive cause for the accident.

The flight, a Lion Air Boeing 737 jet, crashed while travelling between Bali and the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. They were able to complete the flight and land the plane safely. The captain's stick shaker activated shortly after takeoff and remained nearly continuously active.

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From nearly the moment it took off, "the pilots fought continuously until the end of the flight", says an official with the crash investigation.

The investigation into the crash is in its early stages and is hampered by the lack of evidence from the cockpit voice recorder, which remains lost on the seabed.

Boeing said Tuesday that it "continues to work closely with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board as technical advisers to support the ongoing investigation" by the Indonesian authorities. It is flown or is on order by close to 40 airlines, with Lion Air in the process of receiving more than 200 of jets.

Today, KNKT acknowledged actions to improve safety had been taken by Boeing, Lion Air, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Indonesia's Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

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