Lion Air FO's Family Sues, Improper Maintenance Eyed

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The family of the first officer of the Lion Air Flight 610 is suing Boeing, claiming the 737 MAX he was helping to fly was “unreasonably dangerous” when it crashed into the Java Sea in late October. The pilot, who went by the single name Harvino, was among 189 people onboard when the aircraft dove into the ocean at high speed shortly after takeoff from Jakarta on Oct. 29. The suit, which is being handled by the Chicago firm of Gardiner Koch Weisberg & Wrona, and was filed in Cook County. It also alleges the aircraft manuals didn’t adequately explain the stall prevention system that is the focus of the investigation into the crash. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting, citing unnamed sources, that improper maintenance may have been a factor.

The publication reported Friday that improper calibration of an airspeed sensor started the sequence of events that led to aircraft putting itself into a dive that the pilots couldn’t pull out of. The airline has rejected any claims that faulty maintenance was a factor in the crash. It is also suing Boeing as are the passengers. The suits are being filed in Chicago because that’s where Boeing maintains its head office.

Comments (9)

How the heck can Lion Air claim that MX -- faulty or otherwise -- wasn't a factor in the crash ? The same problem was there on the earlier flight but that crew handled it successfully. Someone at Lion Air signed off the problem, it wasn't communicated to the subsequent crew but they're claiming it wasn't a factor? The WSJ article title says that, too. Maybe logic works differently in Indonesia?

As I stated in earlier comments in a different blog, I ran the situation past three senior Captain buddies of mine. All three commented that the trim wheel woulda been rotating right next to both crew members and they should have realized that neither had commanded nose down trim. The first thing they should have done -- either instinctively or via the checklist -- was to turn off that system. If something isn't working right ... stop it from doing that! Paul has already written about this. I assume Harvino wasn't the pilot flying? If so -- how come his family isn't suing the Captain or Lion Air or the taxi driver who took him to the airport? OH ... I forgot ... Boeing has more money.

And -- of course -- the ambulance chasers are now 'on scene.' It shouldn't be too hard to find 12 jurors with absolutely no aviation experience in Chicago. It's no darned wonder why a new C172 costs $400K (sigh). But hey ... the world will be so much safer is Harvino's family can haul off some booty.

Methinks Lion Air is trying to deflect culpability in the matter.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | December 31, 2018 3:09 AM    Report this comment

The thing is that Lion Air Crews and Mx were trained per Boeing's policies and procedures. The crews were trained in Boeing simulators. Lion Mx followed Boeing's procedures, to the point where they were starting to replace and swap parts in the AOA system because the problem had occurred more than once & the books procedures weren't solving the issue. The previous flight crew reported the problem with IAS tape issues and stick shaker activation but never mentioned the movement of the trim. Had the crew known there was MCAS they may have included it in their write up.

It's counter intuitive to assume a trim issue when the stick shaker is constantly going off moments after takeoff. No other 737 variant has a system that automatically adds nose down trim at high AOA with the flaps at zero, and since that information was never relayed to flight crews, they may not have the spacial awareness to put the two things together in a chaotic departure phase with speed tapes failing and false stick shakers.

Everyone is ready to come to the defense of an American manufacturer such as Boeing and quickly shun an operator like Lion Air whose track record has been shotty, however when viewing this accident in a vacuum I find it extremely difficult not to blame Boeing for never mentioning the MCAS system in their differences training. Stating in ground school "Due to the aircraft's new engines causing pitch instability with the flaps at zero, the aircraft will automatically add nose down trim with the flaps at 0 at high angles of attack" was a massive error. That is not a small detail that would be unnecessary for a crew to know. On top of that how does an experienced company like Boeing not think to themselves "We should build some redundancy into this system in-case an AOA sensor fails and require both AOA sensors to agree that there's high AOA before MCAS starts working". All the aircraft I've ever flown with a pusher require both AOA veins to agree before pushing the controls down.

Don't take my word for it, the out-lash from multiple 121 carriers was outrage that Boeing never mentioned the design changes. I'm normally against the barrage of suing that happens after these cases, but frankly I feel Boeing left flight crews in the dark on this one and should be held accountable.

Posted by: David Rohwer | December 31, 2018 8:18 AM    Report this comment

Well said and explained David,

Amazing that MCAS is active without both AOA's in agreement.

After reading the preliminary report, it appears the crew was trying to figure out what was providing the uncommanded down trim. But not knowing the MCAS was forcing the nose down, it appears the last couple of excursions exceeded the crews ability to pull the nose up. They did manage to fly this airplane for 11 minutes thru multiple pitch excursions. However, there was always a 5 second delay before MCAS did it's thing with renewed vigor.

Of course, Boeing fessed up that there was "addition" guidance to the flight control system thru a customer service memo three full days after the FAA issued an AD relating to the accident stating the MCAS can pitch the nose down enough to exceed the crews capacity to pull the stick back. Nice to know about that additional flight control "safety feature".

One can only imagine how many flight hours world wide would have been accrued on the MAX series before Boeing was planning on sharing this new invention to the maintenance and flight crews of all the airlines actively flying the MAX series.

This investigation and all the arm-chair quarterbacking that has been postulated would be entirely different if Southwest lost an airplane leaving Phoenix or Dallas spreading a new airplane all over the desert or a mountain. Especially, if the same airplane had experienced multiple write ups with maintenance doing all they knew to do...and Boeing finally says...hmmm,, we forgot to tell you about MCAS when you bought these birds. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain for I am the great and powerful OZ.

If there was ever throwing meat to a junk yard dog, it is hiring a law firm out of Cook County in Chicago to go after Boeing headquartered down the street. I'll bet all those tax breaks Chicago gave Boeing to move its headquarters there will be quickly forgotten as Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe takes a big bite out of the Boeing's rear end for this fiasco. Or it could go the other way with Boeing in Chicago paying off the same firm to shut up. Either way, Cook County is the last place on earth to get to the "truth" about anything.

Posted by: Jim Holdeman | December 31, 2018 9:11 AM    Report this comment

Something ain't right.

The Plot Thickens

"Since Boeing disclosed the existence of the system in memos to airlines, pilots have been reacting with shock and anger.
"We're pissed that Boeing didn't tell the companies and the pilots didn't get notice obviously, as well," president of Southwest Airlines' pilot union Capt. Jon Weaks said to the Wall Street Journal. "But what we need now is... to make sure there is nothing else Boeing has not told the companies or the pilots.""


Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 1, 2019 12:00 AM    Report this comment

Yes, I understand Boeing is at fault here for withholding the MCAS system information. Like some of the others have already commented, the fact that Lion Air is holding back saying that faulty maintenance was not a factor in the crash makes no sense. After the accident there were flaws found on other Lion Air MAX aircraft but there no reports (that I know of) that have occurred on other MAX aircraft AOA Sensors on other airlines. Southwest Airlines I know has taken preventative action by replacing all of the Angle of Attack Sensors on it's entire MAX fleet. I think (my opinion) that Lion Air is selfish along with its CEO/Management Team because they because don't want to acknowledge that their airline may be at fault just to prevent a larger reputation drop. I also think the passengers should wait to make lawsuit actions because one against Lion Air may be another option for them then just suing Boeing.

Posted by: James Anderson | January 2, 2019 8:08 AM    Report this comment

Pilots have auto-pilots, auto climb/descent, auto-throttles, auto-landing systems, auto-spoilers, etc.

I thought that the auto-trim was added because pilots had lost their basic skills due to....

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 2, 2019 8:55 AM    Report this comment

I watched the video embedded in the video provided by RAF. Right there in that video you can see the trim wheels on either side of the center pedestal whirring away ... just like three Captains told me. And, right there at the aft end of the pedestals are the auto trim switches. All that crew had to do was pull 'em and ... problem solved short term.

So lemme see if I have this right ... you're flying this aeroplane and it suddenly decides to start trimming itself uncommanded. Not once ... not twice ... but a BUNCH of times. Now I'm not an airline jock but I sure as heck know that if a system goes crazy, I need to know how to turn it off ... not onl pronto but also as a "memory" item.

As I said in my very first comment on this subject, Boeing has culpability but not as much as they're trying to make out and not as much as I first thought. Could they have trained this item ... sure. But when you examine this situation in its entirety ... Lion Air and its crew carries the bulk of the responsibility. Maybe THAT is why they're claiming they can't afford to find the cockpit voice recorder? They don't want others to hear what was being said ?

As one of my Captain friends said, just pull out the crank handle on that trim wheel. The first time it knocks your hip out of its socket or breaks a knee ... you'll be reaching for the cutoff switches and MCAS won't be a factor.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | January 2, 2019 1:20 PM    Report this comment

"It is possible for the stabilizer to reach nose down trim limit unless the system inputs are counteracted completely by pilot trim inputs and then moving both STAB TRIM CUTOUT switched to CUTOUT."

This is the exact recommended procedure as copied directly from the Boeing AD compliance amendment to the 737 MAX POH.

So, simply turning off the STAB TRIM CUTOUT on the pedestal without doing something either by hand trimming or using the electric trim to help get the nose back up by re-positioning the stab would not necessarily have worked. In other words, a complete nose down stabilizer position would not give you enough elevator authority to simply haul back on the yoke and pull out of the dive. You would have to have the stab positioned closer to neutral BEFORE you hit the stab cutout switches.

The highest Flight 610 got was 2,150 ft. They had both an altitude and airspeed disagreement not just on the left hand panel, as the previous flight, but now on the co-pilots side as well. They asked ATC for a speed check and ATC said they were traveling at that time at 322kts. They did re-deploy the flaps to 5 degrees stopping the nose down MCAS command. But we don't know what the stab position was in when the flaps came back out. They then retracted the flaps again to zero and the nose down command came back but they were able to electrically trim nose up. In each case they were able to trim nose up with the electric trim which would be most likely faster than try to doing it manually. At 1600-2150 ft at 322 kts does not give a lot of time to shut off the stab trim and manually re-trim especially if the stab position was at or close to exceeding the elevator authority available. It made sense to electrically trim nose up which gave you better elevator authority.

Without knowing you had MCAS on board, you would not know there is a nose down stab position that you cannot overcome. We also don't know if the max nose down stab position with MCAS influence is any farther than the normal nose down trim range.

It appears on the previous flight the altitude was high enough plus the nose down stab position didn't get so far down that by shutting off the stab trim they had enough time, altitude, and elevator control authority to return to level flight allowing the crew to manually re-trim and hand fly the airplane. Those passengers on board did say it was a wild ride before the crew regained control.

The fatal flight crew didn't get those same options. The words "AND THEN" positioned as it is in the POH amendment show you the sequence to be performed with MCAS on board. This crew found out the hard way there is a nose down stab position from which you cannot re-trim fast enough to safely pull up.

Posted by: Jim Holdeman | January 2, 2019 3:27 PM    Report this comment

Fellow aviators... firstly the B737 is flyable with either FULL stabilizer up or down trim. The only 'but' is that airspeed must be kept low, otherwise the elevator will be aerodynamically overpowered by the stabilizer. This is a knowledge and skill that get lost in the dollar-driven flight training environment. The simple action of disabling the stab trim would have stopped the trim inputs caused by the MCAS, but even if the trim would reach FULL travel the aircraft is still flyable.

Posted by: Mauro Hernandez | January 3, 2019 2:40 PM    Report this comment

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