Report: Boeing Offered Crucial Warning Light as Optional Add-On for 737 Max

Boeing unveils fix to flight system after deadly crashes
Jason Redmond/AFP

A new report from the New York Times revealed that Boeing offered a crucial warning light as an optional add-on on their 737 Max airplanes.

The report revealed that only 20 percent of the 737 Max planes that were sold to airlines included the crucial warning light indicator that Boeing offered as an optional feature. Two planes, Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, crashed as the result of faulty “angle of attack sensors.” The faulty sensors activate an anti-stall software that sent both planes into a nose-dive.

In a statement from Boeing, the company acknowledged that the warning light indicator was not a standard feature on the 737 Max planes.

The Boeing design requirements for the 737 MAX included the AOA Disagree alert as a standard, standalone feature, in keeping with Boeing’s fundamental design philosophy of retaining commonality with the 737NG. In 2017, within several months after beginning 737 MAX deliveries, engineers at Boeing identified that the 737 MAX display system software did not correctly meet the AOA Disagree alert requirements. The software delivered to Boeing linked the AOA Disagree alert to the AOA indicator, which is an optional feature on the MAX and the NG. Accordingly, the software activated the AOA Disagree alert only if an airline opted for the AOA indicator.

However, they maintain that the absence of the warning light indicator did not lead to the crashes.

When the discrepancy between the requirements and the software was identified, Boeing followed its standard process for determining the appropriate resolution of such issues. That review, which involved multiple company subject matter experts, determined that the absence of the AOA Disagree alert did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation. Accordingly, the review concluded, the existing functionality was acceptable until the alert and the indicator could be delinked in the next planned display system software update. Senior company leadership was not involved in the review and first became aware of this issue in the aftermath of the Lion Air accident.

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