In a statement released on Sunday, Boeing admitted they became aware that the aircraft's "display system software did not correctly meet the AOA Disagree alert requirements" in 2017, many months before the Indonesia crash in October and the Ethiopia crash in March, which collectively killed 346 people. In both disasters, preliminary investigations suggest faulty data from a malfunctioning angle of attack (AOA) sensor triggered the aircraft's anti-stall software, known as MCAS, which pitched down the nose of the planes as pilots struggled for control.
Boeing did not tell customers or the USA aviation regulator that an alert mechanism in the cockpit was optional on the 737 Max, rather than standard as in previous models, until after a fatal crash.
"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".
In manuals that Boeing gave to Southwest Airlines, the biggest operator of both the Max and 737s in general, the warning light was depicted as a standard feature just as it is on older 737s, according to Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King.
When the discrepancy was found, Boeing conducted a review and determined that the existing function was acceptable and chose to delink the alert and the indicator in the next planned update for the display system software.
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A spokesman for the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the agency was first notified of the non-working warning light in November, after the Lion Air 737 MAX crashed in Indonesia.
This comes after President Trump grounded the 737 MAX aircraft back in March, following the deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash that left hundreds dead.
Boeing's disclosure on Sunday (local time), however, raised fresh questions about the company's candour with regulators and airline customers. The alert was supposed to flash when two angle-of-attack vanes sent conflicting data about the relation of the plane's nose to the oncoming air stream.
The FAA said the issue was "low risk", but said Boeing could have helped to "eliminate possible confusion" by letting it know earlier.
Tajer said that even though his airline had installed the optional feature and so had a functional warning light, American Airlines pilots are still unhappy at what he described as newly discovered "misdirection" by Boeing. In December, a safety review board convened by the manufacturer confirmed that the absence of a functional AOA disagree light didn't present a safety issue.
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Senior FAA and airline officials increasingly are raising questions about how transparent the Chicago aerospace giant has been regarding problems with the cockpit warnings, according to people familiar with their thinking.
Boeing has admitted it knew about a missing feature on its 737 Max plans a year before the first of two fatal crashes.
Marking a departure from that stand, a new statement said the company had spotted the problem but chose to act on it under a longer timeline.
It is also being reported Boeing did not do any trial of flight test to know what could happen to the MCAS system if the single AOA sensor fails.
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