JAKARTA: Lion Air must improve its safety culture and better document repair work on its planes, Indonesian authorities said Wednesday, in preliminary findings into last month’s crash that killed all 189 people on board.
The Boeing 737 MAX vanished from radar about 13 minutes after taking off from Jakarta on 29th October, slamming into the Java Sea moments after it had asked to return to the capital. The transport safety agency did not pinpoint a definitive cause of the accident, with a final crash report not likely to be filed until next year. But its investigators said that Lion Air kept putting the plane back into service despite repeatedly failing to fix a problem with the airspeed indicator in the days leading up to the fatal flight.
The report also suggested the pilots struggled with the plane’s anti-stall system as they radioed in a request to return to Jakarta’s main airport. The findings will heighten concerns there were problems with key systems in one of the world’s newest and most advanced commercial passenger planes. Investigators have previously said the doomed aircraft had problems with its airspeed indicator and angle of attack (AOA) sensors, prompting Boeing to issue a special bulletin telling operators what to do when they face the same situation. An AOA sensor provides data about the angle at which air is passing over the wings and tells pilots how much lift a plane is getting. The information can be critical in preventing an aircraft from stalling.
Relevant: A crashed Lion Air jet should have been grounded over a recurrent technical problem before its fatal journey, Indonesian authorities said Wednesday, as details from the new jet’s flight data recorder suggested that pilots struggled to control its anti-stalling system. The preliminary crash report from Indonesia’s transport safety agency also took aim at the budget carrier’s poor safety culture but did not pinpoint a cause of the October 29 accident, which killed all 189 people on board. A final report is not likely to be filed until next year. The Boeing 737 MAX vanished from radar about 13 minutes after taking off from Jakarta, slamming into the Java Sea moments after pilots had asked to return to the capital. Investigators said Lion Air kept putting the plane back into service despite repeatedly failing to fix a problem with the airspeed indicator, including on its second-last flight from Bali to Jakarta. “The plane was no longer airworthy and it should not have kept flying,” Nurcahyo Utomo, aviation head at the National Transport Safety Committee, told reporters. The findings will heighten concerns there were problems with key systems in one of the world’s newest and most advanced commercial passenger planes. “But we don’t know yet whether it’s a Boeing or airline issue,” said aviation analyst Gerry Soejatman. Investigators have previously said the doomed aircraft had problems with its airspeed indicator and angle of attack (AoA) sensors, prompting Boeing to issue a special bulletin telling operators what to do when they face the same situation. The report confirmed that initial finding, saying the plane’s data recorder detected an issue with the AoA. It also said the plane’s “stick shaker” — which vibrates the aircraft’s steering wheel-like control yoke to warn of a system malfunction — was “activated and continued for most of the fight.” An AoA sensor provides data about the angle at which air is passing over the wings and tells pilots how much lift a plane is getting. The information can be critical in preventing an aircraft from stalling. The doomed plane’s flight data recorder showed that pilots had repeatedly tried to correct its nose from pointing down, possibly after erroneous data from AoA sensors was fed into a system that automatically adjusts some of its movements. Black box data showed the plane also had an airspeed indicator issue on multiple earlier flights, said investigators, who have yet to locate the cockpit voice recorder on the sea floor. The lion must take steps “to improve the safety culture” and bolster the quality of its flight logs, the transport agency said. “Airlines need to take paperwork seriously,” Soejatman said. “That didn’t cause the crash, but it can cause other problems in the environment they’re working in.” Despite a dubious safety record and an avalanche of complaints about shoddy service, the budget carrier’s parent Lion Air Group has captured half the domestic market in less than 20 years of operation to become Southeast Asia’s biggest airline. Indonesia’s aviation safety record has improved since its airlines, including national carrier Garuda, were subject to years-long bans from the US and European airspace for safety violations, although it has still recorded 40 fatal accidents over the past 15 years. The report stopped short of making any recommendations to Boeing but the US planemaker has come under fire for possible glitches on the 737 MAX — which entered service just last year. The APA, a US airline pilots’ union, said carriers and pilots had not been informed by Boeing of certain changes in the aircraft control system installed on the new MAX variants of the 737. “I am really surprised if Boeing has not shared all the flight performance parameters with pilots, unions, and training organizations,” University of Leeds aviation expert Stephen Wright told the Media, adding that “a deliberate omission would have serious legal ramifications”. In response to Wednesday’s report, Boeing said: “(The company) is taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident, working closely with the US National Transportation Safety Board as technical advisors to support the NTSC as the investigation continues.” Several relatives of the crash victims have already filed lawsuits against Boeing, including the family of a young doctor who was to have married his high school sweetheart this month. Authorities have called off the grim task of identifying victims of the crash, with 125 passengers officially recognized after testing on human remains that filled some 200 body bags.
A relevant piece published earlier:
Tesla unveils ambitious full self-driving chip for next-generation vehicles
SAN FRANCISCO: U.S. electric car manufacturer Tesla unveiled a new full self-driving (FSD) chip for its next-generation autonomous vehicles.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk told investors during the company’s Autonomy Day that FSD-powered computers will turn its electric cars into self-driving vehicles without human intervention.
He said all new models of Tesla cars including Model 3, X and S have been equipped with the chips featuring full self-driving capabilities, but the next-generation chip, which is currently under development, would be “three times better” than the existing system.
Musk said Tesla will probably have more than 1 million cars with full driving capabilities running on the road by 2020.
“Probably two years from now, we’ll make a car with no steering wheels or pedals,” he said. He predicted the new powerful FSD chip will come out in two years.
Musk touted his company’s FSD technology while mocking the LIDAR technology by calling it a “fool’s errand.”
Facebook hires high-ranking US State Department lawyer
SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook said Monday it has hired a high-ranking US State Department lawyer credited with helping craft the controversial Patriot Act as the social network’s new general counsel.
Jennifer Newstead will replace Colin Stretch, who announced in July that he planned to leave Facebook.
Newstead will oversee global legal functions at the California-based social network as it faces continued pressure from regulators regarding how well it safeguards user privacy and protects against the spread of misinformation or abuse on its platform.
“Jennifer is a seasoned leader whose global perspective and experience will help us fulfill our mission,” Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement.
“We are also truly grateful to Colin for his dedicated leadership and wise counsel over the past nine years.”
Newstead was the first woman to lead the Office of the Legal Adviser at the State Department, a post she took in January 2018.
Samsung delays launch of folding Galaxy smartphone
SAN FRANCISCO: Samsung said Monday it was delaying the launch of its folding smartphone after trouble with handsets sent to reviewers.
Some reviewers who got their hands on the Galaxy Fold early reported problems with screens breaking.
Samsung said it decided to put off this week’s planned release of the Fold after some reviews “showed us how the device needs further improvements.”
The South Korean consumer electronics giant planned to announce a new release date for the Galaxy Fold in the coming weeks.
Initial analysis of reported problems with Galaxy Fold screens showed they could be “associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge,” Samsung said.
There was also an instance where unspecified “substances” were found inside a Galaxy Fold smartphone with a troubled display, according to the company.
“We will take measures to strengthen the display protection,” Samsung said.
“We will also enhance the guidance on care and use of the display including the protective layer.”
A handful of US-based reporters were given the flagship Galaxy Fold phones, priced at $1,980, ahead of the model’s official release, and they reported screen issues within days of using the devices.
Samsung spent nearly eight years developing the Galaxy Fold, which is part of the leading smartphone maker’s strategy to propel growth with groundbreaking gadgets.
The company essentially gave reviewers a “beta product” without enough information, such as not to peel off a protective coating meant to be permanent, according to independent technology analyst Rob Enderle.
“It was all avoidable for a company the size of Samsung,” Enderle said.
The failure of a “halo product” meant to showcase innovation and quality could tarnish the brand and send buyers to rivals.
“If a halo product fails, people don’t trust that you build quality stuff,” Enderle said.
“It can do incredible damage. And Huawei is moving up like a rocket, so this could be good for Huawei.”