Pilots of Fatal Lion Air Flight May Have Been Confused by Software Intended to Prevent Deadly Errors

Investigators examine engine parts from the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 at a port in Jakarta on Nov. 7, 2018, after they were recovered from the bottom of the Java sea. (Credit: Bay Ismoyo / AFP / Getty Images)

Investigators examine engine parts from the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 at a port in Jakarta on Nov. 7, 2018, after they were recovered from the bottom of the Java sea. (Credit: Bay Ismoyo / AFP / Getty Images)

Only moments after taking off from Jakarta, the pilots flying Lion Air 610 realized they were losing control of their 737 Max jetliner, the newest, most fuel-efficient and most automated model of Boeing’s mainstay aircraft.

The jetliner unexpectedly pointed its nose down, sending it into a series of 26 dives at less than 5,000 feet. Toward the end, the pilot pulled back on the control yoke with all his might to bring the nose up, but the plane entered a death dive into the Java Sea. The crash, 11 minutes after takeoff, killed 181 passengers and eight crew members.

The causes of the Oct. 29 mishap are still being investigated by teams from Indonesia, Boeing and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. But the investigation is examining the role played by software intended to protect against pilot errors that have caused several deadly crashes around the world and whether the crew understood that system. When the aircraft’s flight control system malfunctioned, the pilots had no clue that flipping a single switch in the cockpit would counteract the problem.

“They never pulled out of a mode of confusion and panic,” said Hans Weber, a San Diego air safety expert and retired aerospace executive. As the aircraft’s automated flight control system kept pushing the nose down, no matter how hard they tried to pull up, “they didn’t have enough leverage,” he said. “It seems crazy.”

Read the full story at LATimes.com.

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