Boeing sued by father of Lion Air crash victim

Investigators examining engine parts from the ill-fated Lion Air Flight JT610 at a port in Jakarta earlier this month.
Investigators examining engine parts from the ill-fated Lion Air Flight JT610 at a port in Jakarta earlier this month.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Suit filed in Chicago alleges flight-control system installed in plane caused the crash

MANHATTAN • Boeing has been sued in what may be the first US claim tied to the crash of Lion Air Flight JT610, which plunged into the Java Sea after taking off from Jakarta on Oct 29.

Mr H. Irianto, the father of Dr Rio Nanda Pratama, an Indonesian man who was among the 189 killed in the disaster, sued Boeing on Wednesday in state court in Chicago, where the airline manufacturer is headquartered. Mr Irianto claims that a new flight-control system incorporated in the Boeing 737 MAX 8 airliner caused the crash. He is seeking unspecified damages.

Investigators believe that an erroneous sensor prompted a computerised safety system to push the jet into a dive as pilots were trying to deal with multiple malfunctions. Boeing and US aviation regulators are considering whether to add a software fix to the 737 Max.

Three US pilots' unions have raised concern about what they say is a lack of information provided by Boeing on the safety system.

The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents United Continental's flight crews, wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration's acting administrator Dan Elwell, saying it was "concerned that a potential, significant aviation system safety deficiency exists". The association also asked for more details.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association and the Allied Pilots Association at American Airlines Group raised similar concerns on Monday.

Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers declined to comment on the lawsuit or the crash investigation, but reiterated an earlier statement that the firm is "taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this incident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved".

Investigators believe that an erroneous sensor prompted a computerised safety system to push the jet into a dive as pilots were trying to deal with multiple malfunctions. Boeing and US aviation regulators are considering whether to add a software fix to the 737 Max.

He added: "We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX."

Southwest Airlines, the biggest operator of the 737 Max 8, replaced two malfunctioning flight-control sensors of the same type during the three weeks before the Lion Air craft, Wall Street Journal said, citing a summary of the US carrier's maintenance record it reviewed. Southwest pilots reported that they could not engage throttle settings, it said.

Boeing said it provided two updates to operators around the world, re-emphasising existing procedures for these situations. Safety remains its top priority, it said.

 

The operations director at Lion Air on Thursday expressed frustration with what he called a lack of information on that safety feature. "There are no details" about the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System in Boeing's latest updates, said Mr Zwingly Silalahi.

A safety system on the Max apparently pushed down the nose of the Lion Air flight, according to Indonesian investigators.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2018, with the headline 'Boeing sued by father of Lion Air crash victim'. Print Edition | Subscribe