Three pilot unions in the United States have raised concerns about a lack of information from Boeing on a new automated flight control feature designed into the newest version of the 737, the MAX series. The new feature is designed to prevent stalls by automatically nudging the airplane nose downward in response to flight data.
The changes in the safety system have come to light following the crash of a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX Airplane near Jakarta. Crash investigators stated that in initial findings that the pilots were receiving erroneous speed readings and that the angle of attack indicator was sending false signals to the system, prompting a computer on the plane to command a dive.
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The operations director at Lion Air has expressed frustration with what he calls a ‘lack of information’ on the new safety system and that there are no details about the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System in Boeing’s latest manual update.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, Allied Pilots Association, and Air Line Pilots Association have said that Boeing is exhibiting a “failure of the safety culture” by not updating pilots early enough on how the new system works. Pilots are saying that Boeing did not advise operators of the system changes until after the Lion Air crash.
Boeing released a safety bulletin immediately after the crash about how to regain control of the airplane in the event the new stall protection system malfunctioned.
“There appears to be a significant information gap, and we want to ensure that pilots operating these aircraft have all of the information they need to do so safely,” said Tim Canoll, President of the Air Line Pilots Association.
In response to the concerns raised by airline pilots, Boeing released a statement saying that they were ‘deeply saddened’ by the Lion Air plane crash and were working with officials to determine what went wrong.
“We are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this incident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved,” said Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman. “We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX. Safety remains our top priority and is a core value for everyone at Boeing.”
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