Boeing Max Crash Report Faces Pushback from Lion Air, Regulator

September 23, 2019

Lion Air and Indonesia’s civil aviation authority are pushing back on conclusions reached by investigators probing last year’s deadly crash of a Boeing Co. 737 Max amid concerns that too much blame is being placed on the Indonesian side, according to people familiar with the matter.

Lion Air expressed its objections to Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee after 25 of 41 lapses found in the NTSC’s latest draft of the report were directed toward the carrier, one of the people said, asking not to be named discussing a private matter. The country’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation also relayed its objections, another person familiar with the matter said.

NTSC Chairman Soerjanto Tjahjono said Monday investigators are still evaluating input from related parties before finalizing the report but declined to comment further. Representatives for Indonesia’s DGCA and Lion Air declined to comment. Boeing said it continues to “work with the investigating authorities on completing the final accident report” and declined to comment further.

The NTSC plans to release in November the much-anticipated final report, which may influence aviation regulators worldwide as they discuss the fate of Boeing’s fastest-selling plane. The Lion Air crash, which killed 189 people last October, led to the global grounding of the jet after another crash in Ethiopia less than five months later. That triggered intense scrutiny of the American plane manufacturer and the oversight exercised by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

In the NTSC report, seven of the faults were directed toward Boeing over issues including inadequate disclosure of its so-called MCAS system to pilots and customers, while the FAA was criticized for its certification of the jetliner, according to one of the people. The International Civil Aviation Organization was also cited for lapses, according to the person.

In November last year, the NTSC issued a preliminary report saying poor safety procedures and the inability of pilots to gain control of a malfunctioning airplane may have contributed to the crash. During the 11-minute flight before the plane crashed into the Java Sea, the pilots battled with a software feature that was relying on faulty instruments that hadn’t been properly fixed despite similar failures on the plane’s previous flight from Bali, according to the report.

As to Boeing, the Chicago-based plane maker has been working to fix the software, called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which has been blamed as the main cause of another crash by Ethiopian Air earlier this year. Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg has said the company expects it can complete a software patch by the end of September, while cautioning that the timeline remains uncertain.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier, citing people familiar with the matter, that a draft of the report determined that the design and U.S. regulatory approval were flawed. Investigators also faulted pilot and maintenance errors, according to the Journal.

–With assistance from Kyunghee Park.

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