Southwest fits all its Boeing 737 MAX planes with new safety device to avoid a repeat of the Lion Air crash that killed 189 people
- Southwest Airlines is activating a new safety feature in its Boeing 737 Max fleet after the Indonesian government identified issues with the Lion Air plane that crashed and killed 189 people.
- The government said there was an issue with the plane's Angle of Attack (AOA) system, which wrongly caused the plane's anti-stall system to kick in and push the plane's nose lower, making it harder to control.
- It is not certain that AOA errors caused the crash, but it is a possibility.
- Southwest is now planning on activating an additional indicator in its Boeing 737 Max planes, which would alert pilots of erroneous readings in the system.
Southwest Airlines is adding a new safety device to its fleet of Boeing 737 Max planes to avoid an incident like the Lion Air crash which killed 189 people in October.
Southwest confirmed to aviation publication The Air Current that it will activate new Angle of Attack (AOA) indicators on its planes which will warn if the sensors are giving incorrect data.
The airline said in a statement that the new measure "will provide a valuable supplemental cross-check in the event there is an erroneous AOA signal present."
The indicator is an optional additional check on the aircraft's AOA system, which senses the plane's angle and pushes the nose of the aircraft down if it is pointing too high. The system is design to prevent the plane from stalling.
However, if the system malfunctions it can push the nose down too far, forcing it into a dangerous dive which pilots may struggle to reverse.
While Southwest did not mention the fatal Lion Air crash, Indonesian investigators have said that a fault with the AOA system in the brand new Boeing 737 Max 8 may have been why the pilot was left wrestling with the controls as the plane began to speed towards the sea.
They said, however, that it is "too early to conclude" whether this issue with the system contributed to the crash.
According to video and photo footage reviewed by The Current Air, Lion Air's planes do not have the AOA indicators installed.
US aviation groups, including the Federal Aviation Authority, say that Boeing didn't tell them about new sensors in the automated anti-stall system that were added to their 737 MAX aircraft.
Southwest pilots were informed of the change this week, The Air Current reported. The change will begin with brand new planes from Boeing, which will come with the AOA device already installed, The Air Current said.
Southwest is also expected to fit its existing 737 MAX planes with the device, according to the report.