U.S. Issues Emergency Directive After Jet Crash in Indonesia

The Boeing 737 MAX 8

As a result of continuing investigations into last week's crash of Lion Air flight 610, the US Federal Aviation Administration has issued an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) to operators of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft calling on them to address procedures in the event of pilots receiving erroneous angle of attack sensor information.

Boeing Co said in a statement that it had alerted pilots to the issue. FAA directives are usually followed by other airline regulators internationally.

Boeing said on Wednesday it had issued a safety bulletin reminding pilots how to handle erroneous data from a sensor in the wake of the Lion Air crash.

The FAA emergency directive warns that the "erroneous inputs can potentially make the horizontal stabilizers repeatedly pitch the nose of the airplane downward, making the aircraft hard to control".

"Both the documents (FAA and Boeing) address erroneous high angle of attack sensor input and corrective action for the same as it has potential for repeated nose-down trim commands of the horizontal stabiliser", said a senior Directorate General of Civil Aviation official, who asked not to be named.

But a Boeing statement said a safety bulletin, sent to airlines on November 6, directs flight crews to existing guidelines on how they should respond to erroneous "angle of attack" data. "The big picture is the system keeps getting safer and safer, and it's still the safest form of transportation ever designed by humans", he said.

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The DGCA official said that within three days after receipt of FAA AD, changes to airplane flight manual have to be done, for procedures which have to be followed by flight crew. Moments earlier, the pilots radioed a request to return to Jakarta to land, but never turned back toward the airport, according to Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee and flight-track data.

KNKT said that there was a problem with the sensor on the last flight taken by the doomed plane, from the island of Bali to Jakarta, even though one sensor had been replaced in Bali. That sensor is meant to maintain air flow over a plane's wings but if it malfunctions can lead to an aerodynamic stall - which can cause aircraft to abruptly dive.

Boeing's bulletin related only to the 737 Max, the latest version of the world's most-sold family of aircraft, which has been in service for just over a year. "And yes, we now have seven Max 9's in operation. there are no plans to alter our 737 Max operations".

The Boeing 737 Max is a more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer's best-selling single-aisle 737 series.

The Lion Air crash was the first involving the type of plane, which airlines introduced into service previous year.

Authorities were still searching for the cockpit voice recorder, the second so-called "black box". The Boeing bulletin says it is possible that the system will continue to put the aircraft nose down, right up to the limit, unless it is deactivated. The angle of attack sensor replaced in Bali would be analysed at its place of manufacture in Chicago, the accident investigator said.

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