News & Opinion | March 18, 2019 10:50 am

Potential Factor in Boeing Crashes Might Be the Sensor

The plane's angle-of-attack sensors are now under scrutiny.

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

Aviation experts say that the angle-of-attack sensor, which detects whether the wings have enough lift to keep flying, on Boeing jets might play a role in the Boeing 737 Max airplane crashes in Ethiopia last week and in Indonesia in October.

Accident investigators, according to The Washington Post, have raised concerns about the sensor, which is used in basically every commercial flight. They are worried that it may have sent the wrong signals to new software on the Lion Air Flight 610, which crashed in October, that automatically dips the plane’s nose to prevent a stall.

It is unclear so far whether the angle-of-attack sensor played a role in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, but Ethiopia’s transportation secretary said on Sunday that the plane’s black boxes showed “clear similarities” between the Indonesian and Ethiopian crashes, according to The Post. 

“The sensor going out is serious,” said Clint Balog, a test pilot and associate professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, to The Post. “But it can be made critical by software.”