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Ethiopian Airlines rejects Boeing, FAA claim over warning signals in cockpit


Devdiscourse News DeskWashington D.C
Updated: 19-05-2019 00:56 IST
Ethiopian Airlines rejects Boeing, FAA claim over warning signals in cockpit

"Both of those things are unfortunate, obviously," Elwell was quoted as saying. Turning the motors back on allowed the MCAS system to push the plane downward again. Image Credit: Wikimedia

Ethiopian Airlines officials on Friday pushed back on claims made by Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the airline's failure to adhere with emergency procedures issued following the October crash of Indonesia's Lion Air contributed to the crash of Boeing 737 MAX five months later. The airline said that although its pilots followed the procedures set out by the FAA and Boeing, "none of the expected warnings appeared in the cockpit, which deprived the pilots of necessary and timely information on the critical phase" of the six-minute flight, The Washington Post reported.

Investigators, in their reports, have said that faulty information from an external sensor led to an automated safety feature, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, to repeatedly force the plane's nose down before the plane crashed in a field, killing all 157 people on board two months ago. During a congressional questioning on Wednesday, FAA chief Daniel Elwell said the Ethiopian pilots, unlike the pilots in Indonesia, turned off the motors controlling the stabiliser that was forcing the aeroplane downward because of the MCAS problem.

He added that the Ethiopian pilots had failed to control the plane's speed and then, "about a minute before the end of the flight," turned the motors back on. "Both of those things are unfortunate, obviously," Elwell was quoted as saying. Turning the motors back on allowed the MCAS system to push the plane downward again.

However, the Ethiopian Airlines, in a statement, told The Washington Post that the claims were being made to "divert public attention" from problems with the flight's control system. The statement noted that Ethiopian Airlines was one of only a small number of airlines around the world that bought a full flight simulator for the 737 MAX 8, which allowed pilots to become familiar with the system.

"However, it's very unfortunate that the B737 Max 8 simulator was not configured to simulate the MCAS operation by the aircraft manufacturer," the airline said. The airline added it was a "major failure" that the MCAS feature was "designed to be automatically activated by a single source of information," an external sensor known as an angle-of-attack vane.

This week, Boeing said it has completed a software fix that will make the MCAS rely on two external sensors. The fix will also reduce the strength of the automated feature so it cannot overpower pilots. In addition, the company also noted that a cockpit indicator on MAX jets, known as an "angle of attack" disagree alert, did not work on most planes because of a software problem.

(With inputs from agencies.)


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