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23.10.2019 Africa

Lion Air families meet Indonesia safety agency ahead of report

By AFP
All 189 passengers and crew died when a Lion Air 737 MAX jet crashed shortly after takeoff last year.  By BAY ISMOYO (AFP/File)
OCT 23, 2019 AFRICA
All 189 passengers and crew died when a Lion Air 737 MAX jet crashed shortly after takeoff last year. By BAY ISMOYO (AFP/File)

Families of those killed when a Lion Air plane crashed last year met with Indonesian safety regulators Wednesday to be briefed on a final report into the disaster that could be released within days.

All 189 passengers and crew died when the Boeing 737 MAX jet slammed into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta last October.

A few months later, the model was grounded worldwide after an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crashed, killing 157 people aboard.

Preliminary investigations into both accidents implicated the variant's Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), an automated flight-handling mechanism that pilots were unable to control.

An initial report into the Indonesian crash also took aim at budget carrier Lion Air's safety culture.

A plaintiffs' attorney previously told AFP that Boeing had so far reached settlements with 11 families of victims in the crash.

On Wednesday, grieving relatives met with investigators from Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee to be briefed on the conclusions of their final report into the crash.

Indonesia media have said the report could be released as early as Friday.

"We're going to hear what (regulators) have to say about the report. Hopefully, it'll make the case clearer," Eka Sulistiawati, who lost her husband in the crash, said before heading into the meeting.

The sit-down comes after Boeing on Tuesday replaced the chief of its commercial plane division, the most significant executive departure since the 737 MAX grounding plunged the company into crisis seven months ago.

The 737 MAX woes have dented Boeing's reputation, with the two crashes having already cost the US aviation giant billions of dollars and sparked calls to reform its corporate culture and fix transparency issues.

Uncertainty continues to cloud Boeing's timeframe for returning the single-aisle jet to service.

A report released by international regulators said the US Federal Aviation Administration lacked the manpower and expertise to fully evaluate the jet's MCAS when it certified the plane.

Boeing faced new scrutiny following text messages from November 2016 in which a test pilot described the MCAS during a simulation as "running rampant" and behaving in an "egregious" manner.

The company shared the messages with the Department of Justice in February.

But the FAA learned of their existence only recently and publicly criticised Boeing for withholding them.

Boeing, facing scores of lawsuits, said earlier this year it would spend $100 million on communities and families affected by the 737 MAX disasters.

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