Updated: May 9, 2019
Boeing admits engineers were aware of safety alert issues months before the deadly crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max-8 aircraft.
Not long after the plane was released the company noticed a sensor light was only effective when airlines chose to purchase a separate optional feature. Said feature was made to warn pilots when a key sensor was providing false information about the pitch of the planes nose.
The sensors malfunctioned during an October flight in Indonesia and the same feature failed again in March in Ethiopia. The pilots of both planes were unable to re-take control of the plane due to this sadly killing 346 people.
It is not yet obvious whether the warning light would have prevented either crash. Boeing said that the plane was safe to fly without the optional extra, a sensor alert, named an angle-of-attack disagree light.
A spokesperson of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) said the agency was notified of the non-working light and experts concluded that the cockpit indicator presented a low risk. “However, Boeing’s timely or earlier communication with airlines would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Boeing had told airlines this warning light was standard equipment on all 737-Max jets. However Boeing engineers quickly learned that the warning light only worked if airlines purchased an optional gauge that told pilots how the planes nose was aimed into oncoming air. Boeing arranged to fix this issue by disconnecting the alert from the optional indicators in the next scheduled update of cockpit display software