Federal Bureau of Investigation joins probe into Boeing 737 MAX certification process

Minnie Murray
March 21, 2019

"Boeing and the FAA have been found wanting in this ugly saga that began years ago but has come home to roost with two bad fatal crashes, with no survivors, in less than five months, on a new airplane type, the Boeing 737 Max 8, something that is unprecedented in modern aviation history", Sullenberger wrote. By that time, the investigators had already released an initial report of the accident, which relies heavily on flight data captured by the FDR. A different flight crew experienced the same issue on a flight from Denpasar to Jakarta the previous day, but had turned off the MCAS and took manual control of the plane, the report said.

The "dead-head" pilot told the crew to cut power to the motor driving the plane's nose down, the report added.

Meanwhile, later on Wednesday, Boeing announced that it has delayed, by three months, its first un-crewed flight to the International Space Station under Nasa's human spaceflight program, and pushed its crewed flight until November, industry sources said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Boeing Co declined to comment because the investigation was ongoing.

The federal grand jury investigation, based in Washington, D.C., is looking into the certification process that approved the safety of the new Boeing plane, two of which have crashed since October.

The flight data reveals that the aircraft's systems had detected an imminent stall due to the faulty indicator, causing the "stick-shaker" (which vibrates the aircraft's steering-wheel and warns the captain) to activate and remain so throughout most of the flight.

The Lion Air flight's cockpit voice recorded on display.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed a few minutes after takeoff on March 10, 2019, only five months after Lion Air Flight 610 crashed soon after takeoff on October 29, 2018.

"It's a challenge to explain to customers who weren't previously booked on a MAX why their flight is canceled", Feinstein said.

Software installed on Boeing's 737 Max 8 planes, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), automatically lowers the nose of the plane when it receives information from the AOA sensors that the aircraft is flying too slowly or steeply, and at risk of stalling. The system pulled the plane's nose down more than two dozen times, the report said.

As the 31-year-old captain tried in vain to find the right procedure in the handbook, the 41-year-old first officer was unable to control the plane, two of the sources said.

In the last minute, the Indian-born captain was silent while the Indonesian first officer said "Allahu Akbar", or "God is greatest".

The preliminary report into the Lion Air crash mentioned the Boeing system as well as other factors, including the airline's maintenance.

The company declined to comment.

Development of the 737 MAX began in 2011 after the launch by its main rival of the Airbus A320neo.

Men unload a case containing the black boxes from the crashed Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 outside the headquarters of France's BEA air accident investigation agency in Le Bourget, north of Paris, France, March 14, 2019.

FAA spokesman Greg Martin would not comment on whether the agency's reputation has been hurt by its approval of the Max, the crashes or the agency's initial hesitation to ground the planes after the second crash.

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