Did faulty sensor cause Indonesia air crash?

Part of the landing gear of the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 at the port in northern Jakarta on Nov 5 2018

Boeing has signalled there could be a problem with the flight control system of its 737 Max 8 jet after one of the new airliners crashed, killing 189 passengers.

Boeing issued a special bulletin yesterday addressing a sensor problem flagged by Indonesian safety officials investigating the crash of a Lion Air 737 that killed 189 people last week.

The US planemaker said investigators looking into the Lion Air crash had found that one of the "angle of attack" sensors on the aircraft had provided erroneous data.

The news agency noted that angle-of-attack errors can cause pilots to lose control of an aircraft and make it impossible to correct the course of a flight, and this was particularly an issue when jet aircraft were first entering circulation.

Bloomberg had reported earlier that Boeing was set to issue a warning to companies using 737 Max airplanes about flight-information systems.

"If the nose is trimmed down on an aircraft, it becomes hard for the crew to hold it", said a person briefed on Boeing's bulletin, SeattleTimes reported.

However, past year Boeing had to briefly ground its 737 MAX fleet as discrepancies were found in its engines.

Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee said it had agreed with Boeing on procedures that the airplane manufacturer should distribute globally on how flight crews can deal with "angle of attack" sensor problems.

KNKT is planning to simulate a flight to assess the impact of sensor damage at Boeing's engineering simulator facility in Seattle.

There are a total of 49 Boeing 737 Max planes in service across the US, including 26 737 Max 8 planes in service at Southwest Airlines, 16 at American Airlines and seven Max 9 planes at United Airlines. But the plane's computers will resume trying to dive as soon as they release the switch, the Boeing bulletin said.

Attempts to fix the issues were unsuccessful, NTSC chairman Soerjanto Tjahjono has said, with the pilots of the 737's second-to-last flight experiencing conflicting information despite an AOA sensor being replaced.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source told Reuters that the Boeing bulletin related only to the 737 MAX, of which there are just over 200 in service.

Flight JT610 sped up as it suddenly lost altitude and then vanished from radar 12 minutes after take-off, with witnesses saying the single-aisle jet plunged into the water.

In October, the tragic crash of Lion Air Flight JT610 brought the jet back to the forefront the public consciousness.

Body parts are still being recovered and divers continue to hunt for the cockpit voice recorder.

Only the National Search and Rescue Agency will press on with the task.

This isn't to say that the Lion Air crew was necessarily in the latter group-despite safety problems in the past with this airline, this specific crew may have absolutely been first-rate aviators, yet still suffered the same fate-but the fact is that we're in an era of increasing automation in aviation that's still 100 percent overseen by human pilots.

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