Chinedu Eze with agency report
Reports have confirmed that the US Department of Transportation (DoT) is investigating the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its approval of Boeing B737MAX after the recent crash of Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302 in Ethiopia, which killed 157 persons on board.
Two accidents involving Indonesia’s Lion Air Flight JT610 on October 29, 2018 where 189 persons died and the one in Ethiopia have led to total death of 346 persons.
According to Reuters, Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of a Lion Air JT610 that crashed into Tanjung Karawang sea is seen inside a special container after it was found
The report indicated that the pilots of ill-fated 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.
This gives credence to the report that pilots who trained to fly the aircraft outside the US did not have access to the manual that detailed the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which has been found to be responsible to the two fatal crashes.
The investigation into the crash, which killed all 189 people on board in October, has taken on new relevance as the FAA and other regulators grounded the model last week after a second deadly accident in Ethiopia.
Investigators examining the Indonesian crash are considering how a computer ordered the plane to dive in response to data from a faulty sensor and whether the pilots had enough training to respond appropriately to the emergency, among other factors.
But DoT is investigating why FAA approved the computer (MCAS) for the aircraft.
Reuters reported that it was the first time the voice recorder contents from the Lion Air flight have been made public, but the three sources that spoke with the medium did so on condition of anonymity.
A Lion Air spokesman said all data and information had been given to investigators and declined to comment further.
The captain was at the controls of Lion Air flight JT610 when the nearly new jet took off from Jakarta, and the first officer was handling the radio, according to a preliminary report issued in November.
Just two minutes into the flight, the first officer reported a “flight control problem” to air traffic control and said the pilots intended to maintain an altitude of 5,000 feet, the November report said.
The first officer did not specify the problem, but one source said airspeed was mentioned on the cockpit voice recording, and a second source said an indicator showed a problem on the captain’s display but not the first officer’s.
The captain asked the first officer to check the quick reference handbook, which contains checklists for abnormal events, the first source said.
For the next nine minutes, the jet warned pilots it was in a stall and pushed the nose down in response, the report showed. A stall is when the airflow over a plane’s wings is too weak to generate lift and keep it flying.
The captain fought to climb, but the computer, still incorrectly sensing a stall, continued to push the nose down using the plane’s trim system. Normally, trim adjusts an aircraft’s control surfaces to ensure it flies straight and level, Reuters reported.
“They didn’t seem to know the trim was moving down,” the third source said. “They thought only about airspeed and altitude. That was the only thing they talked about.”
Reuters also reported that Boeing Company declined to comment on Wednesday because the investigation was ongoing.
The manufacturer has said there is a documented procedure to handle the situation. A different crew on the same plane the evening before encountered the same problem but solved it after running through three checklists, according to the November report.
But they did not pass on all of the information about the problems they encountered to the next crew, the report said.
The pilots of JT610 remained calm for most of the flight, the three sources said. Near the end, the captain asked the first officer to fly while he checked the manual for a solution.
About one minute before the plane disappeared from radar, the captain asked air traffic control to clear other traffic below 3,000 feet and requested an altitude of “five thou”, or 5,000 feet, which was approved, the preliminary report said.
Reuters reported that as the 31-year-old captain tried in vain to find the right procedure in the handbook, the 41-year-old first officer was unable to control the plane, two of the sources said.