JAKARTA – Indonesian investigators said on Monday that aircraft design and oversight failures by regulators played a decisive role in the crash of a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX last year off the Java Sea in Indonesia.
The draft of the official report obtained by the Wall Street Journal, which will be published in coming weeks, said design flaws and the United States Federal Aviation Administration’s lack of oversight were crucial in the October 2018 accident that downed the Indonesian airliner and killed 189 people.
“We continue to work with other international aviation safety regulators and will carefully consider all recommendations,” the FAA said in a statement reacting to the report. “The FAA will incorporate any changes that would improve our certification activities.”
The report also cited pilot error and poor maintenance of Flight 610’s faulty sensors, which contributed to the accident according to the journal.
Nurcahyo Utomo, an investigator at Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, told EFE on Monday that he could not comment on the contents of the investigation owing to legal reasons and added that the final report would be published at the end of October.
The aircraft’s black boxes revealed that pilots attempted to correct the descent of the aircraft’s nose – activated by the automatic stabilization system known as MCAS – more than 30 times before crashing, shortly after taking off from Jakarta.
MCAS automatically pitches the aircraft’s nose down under certain circumstances to prevent the plane from entering a stall and the Indonesian probe suggests that it was activated due to erroneous readings by the device’s faulty sensors.
After a second accident involving another Boeing 737 MAX in March in Ethiopia, whose initial investigations revealed similar difficulties with the MCAS, most countries banned the use of this model in their airspace and Boeing halted deliveries. The Ethiopian Airlines crash killed 157 people.
The accidents have led to a number of improvements in the software of the 737 Max – which have yet to be approved – and have put into question the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification process, as well as the training of pilots.
The US federal agency responsible for the investigation of transportation accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board, will publish a report at the end of the month with recommendations to improve pilot training in cases of automatic system failure and the certification of new aircraft models.
Boeing is facing its worst year in history with losses of almost $3 billion between April and June and several lawsuits by dozens of family members of the victims.
The 737 MAX is not expected to return to service until next year.