Lion Air pilot ‘fought until the end’
THE pilot of the doomed Indonesian jet that crashed into the sea on October 29 killing all on board "fought until the end" to keep the plane in the sky, parliamentarians in Jakarta have heard.
The revelation comes as families of victims who died in the Indonesia Lion Air crash said they were set to sue Boeing, the maker of the 737 MAX 8 jet that plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after takeoff, claiming the plane was "unreasonably dangerous".
Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee aviation head Nurcahyo Utomo was briefing politicians from the country's House of Representatives about data retrieved from the 737's flight recorder, reported the Australian.
He said the captain and co-pilot were faced with different airspeed readings as the plane soared and then sunk repeatedly.
The pilot desperately tried to correct the plane's erratic flight, which it has been speculated was caused by a new anti-stall device fitted to the jet that may have malfunctioned due to incorrect airspeed information reaching the automated flight controls.
This could have automatically set flaps on the plane to "trim down" sending the jet's nose down as the controls tried to correct what it thought were the pilot's pushing the nose up.
Potentially, as part of an automatic action to prevent a stall that wasn't occurring, the jet actually caused the plane to stall.
"When it is 5000 feet high, here it is noted that the purple line is automatic trim down. This is a tool to lower the nose of the plane because the plane will stall," Mr Nurcahyo said.
"This movement is opposed by the pilot. So after the trim down, the pilot commanded electric trim continued to fight until the end of the flight."
The flight control feature and the possible role it played in the crash is at the heart of a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court by aviation specialists Wisner Law Firm, on behalf of families of JT610 passenger.
After the Lion Air crash on October 29, Boeing warned airlines of a potential fault in the new feature, which under "unusual conditions, can push (the plane's nose) down unexpectedly and so strongly that flight crews can't pull it back up", according a Wall Street Journal report.
Wisner Law Firm claims sensors in the flight control feature "were subject to failure or becoming blocked or obstructed in flight, providing inaccurate information to the aircraft's flight control system about the aircraft's 'angle of attack'."
It also alleges the flight control system didn't filter out inaccurate information, and the flight manual did not warn of the dangers presented by any of the defects.
The lawsuit claims the inaccurate information caused the plane to go in a dangerous downward dive, and there was no way the flight crew could safely stop it from plunging into the sea.
Floyd Wisner from the Chicago-based law firm said families of the 189 victims deserved reasonable compensation.
"It has become clear quickly that this was likely a fault with the Boeing aircraft, and this has resulted in unspeakable anguish for the relatives of the victims, not to mention the huge cost burden that will fall on many," he said.
Boeing has maintained it was "confident in the safety of the 737 MAX".
A Wall Street Journal report earlier this month accused Boeing of withholding information about a potential flaw with the control feature.
The feature had been added to the US manufacturer's 737 MAX 8 and 9 aircraft, updated models of its best-selling 737.
Safety experts involved in the investigation said US aviation officials and airline pilots hadn't been told the new system had been added to the 737 MAX aircraft.
Captain Mike Michaelis, chairman of the US Allied Pilots Association, said pilots should have been trained to work with the new technology.
"It's pretty asinine for them to put a system on an aeroplane and not tell the pilots who are operating the aeroplane, especially when it deals with flight controls," he told the Journal. "Why weren't they trained on it?"
Lion Air's months-old Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed into the sea off Jakarta minutes after taking off for the Indonesian destination of Pangkal Pinang on October 29.
Authorities are still searching for the plane's cockpit recorder to help understand what went wrong.
Preliminary flight data suggests passengers on doomed flight 610 experienced sickening drops in altitude in the 13 minutes they were in the air before the plane plummeted with rapid speed into the Java Sea.