Off-duty pilot saved plane one day before deadly Lion Air crash

Boeing 737 MAX certification probe

Boeing says finalizing software upgrade, revising pilot training for 737 Max

The prestige of Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa's most successful companies, and Boeing, the world's biggest planemaker and a massive USA exporter, is at stake in the inquiry.

A Lion Air spokesman did not provide additional comment on Bloomberg's findings.

The Lion Air crew members reportedly received the help from the off-duty pilot, who fixed a malfunctioning sensor from an automated system created to prevent the plane from stalling.

The news came as it was announced by the FAA on Wednesday afternoon that Boeing is developing a service bulletin instructing airlines to install new flight control computer operational program software in the now grounded Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

The twin disasters killed 346 people.

The automated system attempts to prevent the plane from stalling on takeoff. Boeing has also developed flight crew training related to this software. Because profits matter more than people.

The FAA's handling of issues around the Max jet have damaged its standing among other aviation regulators, said James Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

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Days after the the Ethiopian Airlines crash, a number of countries including China, India, Egypt, Vietnam and European Union states began blocking the Boeing 737 Max 8 from their airspace. The company doesn't want the investigations to impact the production of its money-making 737 series planes. They believe it was because of a sensor that did not work correctly.

"I can guarantee to you that on our side we will not allow the aircraft to fly if we have not found acceptable answers to all our questions, whatever the FAA does", he said. A different flight crew experienced the same issue on a flight from Denpasar to Jakarta the previous day, but had turned off the MCAS and took manual control of the plane, the report said. It also said the pilot and co-pilot are supposed to understand the process. Those findings were released in November.

"Safety is Boeing's number one priority and we have full confidence in the safety of the Max", Boeing said in a statement on March 12.

The US Transportation Department's inspector-general now plans to audit the FAA's certification of the Boeing 737 MAX, while European and Canadian regulators say they want to make up their own minds whether a promised software upgrade is adequate.

As with the Indonesia flight, they radioed about control problems shortly after take-off and sought to turn back, struggling to get their plane on track before it hit a field.

"Our credibility as leaders in aviation is being damaged", wrote Chesley Sullenberger. But rather than ground the planes immediately, American officials waited.

A source told Reuters that someone mentioned the plane's airspeed on the cockpit voice recording, and a second source said one of the plane's indicators showed a problem on the captain's display but not the first officer's.

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Before the final dive, the flight crew asked the controller to "block altitude 3,000 feet above and below" to avoid traffic.

By global agreement, planes must be certified in the country where they are built.

The announcement comes as the agency faces increasing criticism and scrutiny over what some viewed as its slow response to the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jetliner and questions over whether it did enough to ensure the aircraft involved in the crash, a Boeing 737 Max 8, was safe to fly. For now, more than 350 MAX aircraft are grounded worldwide.

Other estimates of the costs to Boeing of reimbursing carriers for the groundings have varied from $US100m a month to nearly $US170m a month, depending on the analyst.

Development of the 737 MAX began in 2011 after the launch by its main rival of the Airbus A320neo.

Ethiopia's civil aviation head Wosenyeleh Hunegnaw told Reuters he expected a report on the investigation within 30 days.

Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English.

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