Boeing Knew About Warning Light Problem a Year Before Fatal Crash, But Kept Info to Itself

Evie Fordham on May 6, 2019

Only after the deadly Indonesian Lion Air crash in October did Boeing come forward about a warning light problem it had been aware of for more than a year before the tragedy, the company admitted Sunday.

Boeing did not immediately disclose to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or airlines that a warning light connected to an important sensor on the 737 MAX wasn’t working on most of its planes, reported The Seattle Times.

The world’s attention is on Chicago-based Boeing after 189 people died in the Lion Air crash on Oct. 29, 2018, and 157 people died in the similar Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10. 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.

The malfunction the warning light was designed to point to, a problem in one of the jet’s angle of attack (AOA) sensors, was a part of both crashes. Boeing did not originally reveal the warning only operated properly on planes flown by airlines that had purchased an optional AOA indicator.

Boeing admitted that it had known about the faulty warning light for more than a year following a story by The Wall Street Journal on April 28. Boeing made the discovery “in 2017, within several months after beginning 737 MAX deliveries” in May 2017, the company said Sunday according to The Seattle Times.

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. The company came up with a way to make the warning light function in “the next planned display system software update,” but that update never happened because the MAX planes were grounded in March after the Ethiopian crash.

“[S]enior company leadership was not involved in the review and first became aware of this issue in the aftermath of the Lion Air accident,” Boeing said in its statement.

The FAA issued the following statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation Monday:

Boeing briefed the FAA’s Seattle aircraft certification office in November 2018 and the information was forwarded to the FAA’s Corrective Action Review Board for evaluation. The Review Board determined the issue to be “low risk” and would be required to be a part of Boeing’s overall enhancement announced after the Lion Air. However, Boeing’s timely or earlier communication with the operators would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion.

American Airlines pilots submitted written comments to the FAA about their concern that Boeing is not taking adequate steps in new draft training proposals for the 737 MAX.

Boeing did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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DCwire features investigative reporting syndicated with permission from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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