Cockpit voice recorder of doomed Lion Air jet depicts pilots' frantic search for fix, sources say

JAKARTA, Indonesia - The pilots of a doomed Lion Air Boeing 737 Max scoured a handbook as they struggled to understand why the jet was lurching downwards, but ran out of time before it hit the water, three people with knowledge of the cockpit voice recorder contents said. The investigation into the crash, which killed all 189 people on board in October, has taken on new relevance as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulators grounded the model last week after a second deadly accident in Ethiopia, according to Reuters.

Cockpit voice recorder of doomed Lion Air jet depicts pilots' frantic search for fix, sources say
Cockpit voice recorder of doomed Lion Air jet depicts pilots' frantic search for fix, sources say
JAKARTA, Indonesia - The pilots of a doomed Lion Air Boeing 737 Max scoured a handbook as they struggled to understand why the jet was lurching downwards, but ran out of time before it hit the water, three people with knowledge of the cockpit voice recorder contents said. The investigation into the crash, which killed all 189 people on board in October, has taken on new relevance as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulators grounded the model last week after a second deadly accident in Ethiopia, according to Reuters.

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The Intelligent Aerospace take:

March 20, 2019-In the aftermath of the Boeing 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia, details from the Lion Air crash in October of last year have just been revealed. According to unnamed sources, the flight data recorder, also known as a "black box," in the Lion Air cockpit recorded the first officer reporting a flight control problem to air traffic control approximately two minutes after takeoff. The captain attempted to find the right procedure to pull the jet out of the dive and the first officer could not control the plane, according to sources.

"It is like a test where there are 100 questions and when the time is up you have only answered 75," the third source said. "So you panic. It is a time-out condition."

It was also reported by CNBC that a day before the deadly October 29 crash, pilots flying that particular 373 MAX 8 lost control of the aircraft, but were saved by an off-duty colleague riding in the cockpit.

"That off-duty pilot correctly identified the problem the crew was facing and guided them to disable the flight control system in order to save the plane, according to the report, which cited two people familiar with the investigation in Indonesia," reported Yen Nee Lee for CNBC.

Parallels between the Lion Air crash in October and the crash of another Boeing 737 MAX jet in Ethiopia earlier this month were noted as both events took place shortly after takeoff with experienced pilots in the cockpit. The MAX jets have been grounded as Boeing works on a software upgrade to address issues with the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), which is designed to bring the plane's nose down if there is a stall risk.

The software upgrade “will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks. “This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training,” Boeing officials say.

Related: Regulators challenge Boeing to prove its Max jets are safe

Related: Boeing grounded: What it means for air travel

Related: Boeing agrees with NTSB and FAA to temporarily ground 737 MAX models; President Trump issues executive order

Jamie Whitney, Associate Editor
Intelligent Aerospace

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