Boeing had planned to defer fixing a nonworking safety alert flaw on its 737 Max aircraft for 3 years and sped up the process only after the first of two deadly crashes involving Max planes last October. The company did acknowledge that it initially planned to fix the cockpit warning light in 2020 after two key lawmakers disclosed the company’s timetable on Friday.
The feature named an angle of attack alert light, was designed to make pilots know when the sensors measuring the direction of the plane’s nose up or down relative to oncoming air were not working. Boeing conceded that within some months of the plane’s 2017 debut, engineers noticed that the sensor warning light worked only when paired with a separate, optional feature.
The sensors malfunctioned during an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa in March, and a Lion Air flight in Indonesia in October. Pilots were unable to regain control, causing anti-stall software to push the planes’ noses down and both aircraft crashed. In all, 346 people were killed.
Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Larsen, who heads an aviation subcommittee, DeFazio said that it is a big problem because Boeing knew about the defect well for more than a year but did not bother to disclose it to the FAA.
It is not known whether either crash could have been prevented if the cockpit alert were had been working. A Boeing spokesman said that the company had planned to fix the cockpit warning based on a safety review. The investigations are ongoing, and the lawmakers are asking Boeing to reveal when the company knew the light was defective and when it informed airlines.
It has been almost three months since the 737 Max has been grounded for bringing down Boeing’s earnings and reputation as it heads into the Paris Air Show later this month. Though the company claims a software update to Max’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System is complete, there’s still no stipulated timeline for the airliner to carry passengers again.