News & Opinion | May 6, 2019 10:30 am

Boeing Knew of Max 737 Problems Year Before Lion Air Crash, Failed to Act

A special sensor was only operational on planes that chose to purchase it

Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft
Boeing knew of the 737 Max problems before a series of crashes. (Stephen Brashear/ Getty)
Getty Images

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Boeing seemingly admitted that it knew about the technical issues with its Max 737 airplanes a year before the deadly Lion Air crash — and chose not to act.

The jet company previously acknowledged that a standard alert system in the Max fleet “was not operable on all airplanes,” but in its new statement, released Sunday, Boeing detailed a timeline that showed many at the company knew about the issue long before deciding to do something about it, CNN reported.

While it’s unclear if the lack of an alert function on board the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines planes — which killed a combined 346 people — could have prevented the deadly crashes, the alert certainly could have notified pilots that a sensor was malfunctioning.

Boeing maintains that its senior employees and the Federal Aviation Administration did not know about the issue until after the Lion Air crash, according to CNN.

The alert, known as the angle of attack (AOA) sensor, only worked on planes if the given airline purchased an additional, optional feature, known as the AOA indicator. The AOA indicator warns pilots if one of the sensors is not working.