Debris from a Lion Air passenger jet that crashed in Indonesia in 2018. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Debris from a Lion Air passenger jet that crashed in Indonesia in 2018. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Boeing 737 Max design at fault in crash, Indonesia says

The conclusions were part of an official presentation to the families of survivors.

By Harry Suhartono, Fathiya Dahrul and Anurag Kotoky / Bloomberg News

Design flaws in Boeing’s 737 Max and a lack of information for pilots on how to deal with malfunctions contributed to last year’s crash of Lion Air Flight 610, which killed 189 people, Indonesian investigators found.

In a nine-point presentation to victims’ families, the National Transportation Safety Committee criticized certification procedures for the jet, saying that a flight-control mechanism was approved based on incorrect assumptions. The so-called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System was also implicated in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max in March that claimed 157 lives.

“Only after the tragedy in Ethiopia they concluded that it’s Boeing’s fault. Why didn’t they say it in the first place?” said Evi Samsul Komar, whose 24-year-old son died in the Oct. 29 Lion Air crash. “Up until now, we never been contacted by Boeing,” he said after the briefing in Jakarta.

Indonesian investigators are due to publish their final report on the crash on Friday. The findings could influence regulators worldwide as they assess the fate of what was Boeing’s best-selling plane, which has been grounded globally since March 13, costing the company over $8 billion. The head of its jetliner division stepped down Tuesday after less than three years in the job.

The 737 Max’s MCAS feature, which automatically pushes the plane’s nose downward if it detects danger of an aerodynamic stall, has long been the focus in investigations into the two crashes. In its slideshow Wednesday, the NTSC said the system was too reliant on a single angle-of-attack sensor, making it vulnerable if that sensor malfunctioned and transmitted erroneous readings.

The government agency said a lack of guidance around MCAS made it harder for crews to respond to automated actions by the system. It also said that a replacement sensor on the doomed Lion Air plane wasn’t properly calibrated during an earlier repair and that this error hadn’t been detected. A lack of documentation made it more difficult for maintenance and accident crews to take appropriate actions, a slide showed.

“I’m not satisfied with the briefing and the explanation but this is the result,” said Komar, who was accompanied by his wife and broke down in tears while speaking to reporters.

Lion Air and the country’s civil aviation authority recently objected to findings in a draft of the final report because they received too much of the blame, people familiar with the matter said last month. One of the people said at the time that 25 of 41 lapses were directed toward the airline.

The findings presented Wednesday suggest a problem with the plane’s design rather than a software issue, said Satyendra Pandey, a New Delhi-based independent analyst and former head of strategy at Go Airlines India.

“Going back to revisit the design itself has tremendous ramifications for Boeing — both in terms of cost and liability,” he said. “It can be assumed that Boeing will contest this and point to software as the flaw.”

A Boeing representative wrote in an email that it was too early to comment on the report as it hasn’t been officially released by Indonesian investigators. Lion Air didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has faced criticism for approving the MCAS feature and giving Boeing too much authority to oversee itself.

“As we have suspected since the very beginning, the accident was caused by these two institutions, Boeing and FAA,” said Latief Nurbana, whose 24-year-old son died in the Lion Air crash. “FAA shares the blame as the certification process was not conducted thoroughly.”

Problems with the three-month-old Lion Air jet’s sensors had been reported on three previous flights, including one made from Bali the day before the crash. In that instance, an off-duty pilot traveling in the cockpit identified the problem and told the crew how to disable the malfunctioning control system. However, the pilots didn’t report key issues with the flight after they landed.

A different crew was on board the following day. Flight 610 took off from Jakarta at 6:20 a.m. on the Monday Oct. 29, heading to the tourist destination of Pangkal Pinang, off Sumatra’s east coast. Minutes later, it plunged into the sea after the pilots — an Indian and Indonesian — were unable to regain control in a battle with the controls to keep the aircraft from repeatedly diving.

It was Indonesia’s deadliest airline crash since 1997 and it reignited worries about its aviation safety record. The nation’s airlines, including Lion Air, were banned from flying to the European Union and the U.S. for almost a decade until 2016 because of safety concerns.

Boeing was hit with a lawsuit earlier this month demanding records that will allegedly show if mismanagement is to blame for safety issues leading to the grounding of the 737 Max fleet. Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg is due to face questions from lawmakers in Washington in less than two weeks. The company is also scheduled to report quarterly results ahead of Wednesday’s market open in New York.

Bloomberg’s Kyunghee Park and Dave Merrill contributed.

Talk to us

More in Nation-World

FILE - In this July 14, 2020, file photo, workers climb out of the excavation site as work continues on a potential unmarked mass grave from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, at Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa, Okla. A second excavation begins Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, at a cemetery in an effort to find and identify victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and shed light on violence that left hundreds dead and decimated an area that was once a cultural and economic mecca for African Americans. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki File)
Tulsa digs again for victims of 1921 race massacre

A white mob attacked Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, killing an estimated 300 people and wounding 800.

This 2004 image provided by the University of Rhode Island's Institute for Exploration and Center for Archaeological Oceanography and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Ocean Exploration shows the shoes of one of the possible victims of the Titanic disaster. A company’s plan to retrieve the Titanic’s radio has sparked a debate over whether the famous shipwreck still holds human remains. (Institute for Exploration and Center for Archaeological Oceanography/University of Rhode Island/NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration via AP)
Plan to retrieve Titanic radio spurs debate on human remains

Lawyers for the U.S. have tried to block the planned expedition in an ongoing court battle.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Vice President Mike Pence wave before the vice presidential debate Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Kingsbury Hall on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Pence and Harris face off in vice presidential debate

The candidates sparred in an auditorium where any guest who refused to wear a mask would be asked to leave.

The White House is seen in Washington, early Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, the morning after President Donald Trump returned from the hospital where he was treated for COVID-19. Traffic moves along K Street NW as TV crews set up in Black Lives Matter Plaza. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Trump halts COVID-19 relief talks until after election

The president instead wants to focus on confirming his U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.

Charles M. Rice, professor of virology at Rockefeller University, poses for a portrait in his laboratory office, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in New York. Rice was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus along with fellow American Harvey J. Alter and British-born scientist Michael Houghton.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
3 win Nobel medicine prize for discovering hepatitis C virus

Their work, dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, has helped saved millions of lives.

President Donald Trump gives thumbs up from the Blue Room Balcony upon returning to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington, after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md. Trump announced he tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 2. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Trump, still infectious, back at White House, without mask

Trump’s doctor said the president would not be fully “out of the woods” for another week.

Holiday knick-knacks stand are displayed for Christmas shoppers Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, at a Lowes store in Northglenn, Colo. Add last-minute holiday shopping to the list of time-honored traditions being upended by the coronavirus pandemic. Retailers are kicking off the holiday season earlier than ever this year in hopes of avoiding big in-store crowds and shipping bottlenecks in November and December. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Pandemic pushes start of holiday shopping earlier than ever

Stores like Best Buy, Macy’s, and Target offering Black Friday deals in October to avoid crowding.

Dr. Sean Conley, physician to President Donald Trump, briefs reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Doctors: Trump’s blood oxygen level dropped twice recently

Dr. Sean Conley acknowledged he had tried to present a rosy description of the president’s condition.

President Donald Trump waves to members of the media as he leaves the White House to go to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after he tested positive for COVID-19, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Trump headed to the hospital for ‘few days’ with ‘mild symptoms’

The president announced Thursday night that he and the first lady tested positive for the coronavirus.

Amazon to kick off holiday shopping with October Prime Day

Major retailers have said they plan to push shoppers to start their holiday shopping in October.

NY Times: Trump paid $750 in US income taxes in 2016, 2017

He earned at least $434.9 million in 2018, but the tax filings reported a $47.4 million loss.

President Donald Trump nominates Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court

Trump taps ‘eminently qualified’ Barrett for Supreme Court