Lion Air Flight 610, a Boeing 737 MAX jetliner, crashed into the Java Sea in October, killing all 189 people on board. In fact, an automated flight-control system on Boeing Co.’s 737 MAX aircraft, which investigators suspect played a central role in the fatal crash in Indonesia, was largely omitted from the plane’s operations manual. The decision to omit the new control system from manuals has put a Boeing design principle at the center of a probe into a fatal airliner crash for the first time in more than two decades.
Some regulators and pilots are among those asking why Boeing decided against detailing how the new system worked and why pilots weren’t trained on its specific characteristics. Lion Air is one of Boeing’s largest customers and was the first company to commercially operate Boeing’s MAX jet in 2017. The company has ordered 251 of the jets with a list price of more than $25 billion. In a statement, Boeing said: “Lion Air is a valued customer and we are supporting them through this difficult time. We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident at Lion Air. We are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident, and are working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved.” Boeing began developing the 737 MAX in 2011, a year after European rival Airbus SE introduced the A320neo single-aisle planes.