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Boeing’s anti-stall feature on 737 Max misfired during Ethiopian Airlines crash, report says

Investigators believe the same system malfunctioned in the Lion Air crash last October

by David Gilbert
Mar 29 2019, 1:27pm

Investigators probing the crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane in Ethiopia earlier this month believe that the same automatic flight-control feature that misfired in a Lion Air crash last year was at fault again, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

The investigators, who briefed the FAA on their findings Thursday, said the emerging consensus is that the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) had mistakenly activated before the plane nose-dived into the ground shortly after takeoff, the Journal reported.

The system is designed to prevent the aircraft from stalling, but in the case of the Lion Air crash in late October, it malfunctioned after it was fed erroneous data from a sensor on the plane. A preliminary report on the Lion Air crash had concluded that the pilot was unable to override the MCAS after it automatically forced the plane's nose down more than 24 times before it crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 189 passengers and crew.

The findings are the first to emerge from data recovered from Ethiopian Airlines flight 302’s black box recorder. The plane crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa airport on March 10, killing all 157 people on board.

Ethiopian authorities, who are expected to issue a preliminary report into the crash in the coming days, told the BBC they are looking into the report from the Wall Street Journal.

All Boeing 737 Max planes have been grounded in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash after aviation authorities around the world cited similarities between the crash and the Lion air disaster. Ethiopia’s Minister of Transport said recently that data from the black box had confirmed concerns of similarities between the two incidents.

Boeing this week announced that it was planning to install an extra warning system on all 737 Max aircraft — a feature which airlines previously had to pay extra for. It will also update the software to make it easier for pilots to override the system, and MCAS will also take data from a second sensor to prevent faulty readings.

The Journal’s report came a day after the first lawsuit related to the crash was filed by the family of one of the victims.

“Boeing is working with the authorities to evaluate new information as it becomes available,” a spokesperson for Boeing told the Guardian when asked for comment on the lawsuit.

Cover Image: Rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday, March 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

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