A pair of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets that crashed shortly after takeoff in recent months from Indonesia and Ethiopia lacked two key safety features because they were considered optional extras, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Authorities continue to investigate the causes of the Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashes, but similarities between the disasters pointed to possible issues with the planes’ stall-prevention systems, called MCAS, according to The Wall Street Journal. The software system can, in some circumstances, point the nose of the plane down to avoid an aerodynamic stall, The Associated Press reported.
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A pair of optional Boeing safety features might have helped pilots determine if the system was giving erroneous readings and pushing the nose of the plane down without cause, the Times reported. One of the optional upgrades would have displayed readings from the plane’s sensors while the other, called a disagree light, would have been activated if the sensors were pulling conflicting information, according to the Times.
Boeing officials plan to make the disagree light a standard feature on all new 737 Max planes, the Times reported, citing an unidentified source. The sensor reading display will remain optional.
Neither feature has been mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the Times.
Boeing officials are expected to complete a software update to 737 Max anti-stall systems by Monday, according to the AP. Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration are expected to certify the company’s changes and its plans to train pilots on the system within the next two months, the AP reported.
The Journal previously reported the update had been planned in the wake of October’s Lion Air crash, but work was stalled by disagreements over technical and engineering issues between Boeing and FAA officials. The update was also set back by the five-week government shutdown sparked in December by President Donald Trump’s demand for funding to build his border wall, according to the Journal.
Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in October shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing 189 people. Less than five months later, on March 10, Ethiopian Air Flight 302 crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, killing 157 people.
As investigations into the crashes continue, authorities worldwide have grounded Boeing 737 Max aircraft.
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