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Boeing to make standard a warning light that was not on doomed planes

CBS News logo CBS News 3/22/2019 CBSNews
a large passenger jet flying over a body of water: boeing-737-max.jpg © Eric Greer/Boeing boeing-737-max.jpg

Boeing said Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for new safety updates to its software on its 737 Max jets could come as early as next week. After the crash of two Max jets that killed 346 people, the company announced it would now make standard an indicator light that warns pilots of a sensor malfunction that could cause its anti-stall system to activate unnecessarily. 

Investigators believe that anti-stall system, new on the 737 Max, triggered on Lion Air Flight 610, repeatedly forcing down the nose of the plane and leading to the crash. The previously optional indicator light, a safety feature, was not installed on the Max 8 Lion Air plane or the Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed last week. 

A U.S. airline source said that feature would cost roughly $80,000 extra on a plane with a list price of about $120 million.

Investigators are trying to determine why the max eight fleet was certified to fly in the first place.

Sources tell CBS News that Boeing has been subpoenaed by the Department of Justice's fraud unit. The DOJ is requiring the company to retain documents, records and data related to the Boeing Max 8's approval process, reports CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave.

Investigators are going to try to find out what Boeing may have known before its latest deadly crash and whether their own personal safety assessment was sufficient. If not, the company could potentially face criminal liability. The Max 8 fleet has been grounded for more than a week as investigators try to determine what led to the two deadly crashes. "Our entire team stands behind the quality and safety of the aircraft we design, produce and support," Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a video released Monday. Boeing said it is making changes to its software.

"This problem should not have been that hard to diagnose," said Jeff Guzzetti, former director of accident investigations at the FAA. He said whether or not the Lion Air pilots had access to the safety feature, they should have been trained to handle the issue. "The culture, it seems, at this airline, in not aggressively handling the maintenance issues that were recorded as well as the in-flight non-normal situations, tells me that there's something amiss with the systems safety of Lion Airlines," Guzzetti said.

The Department of Defense will also review all of its Boeing aircraft and its training practices for its crew, including Air Force One. They said it is out of "an abundance of caution."

Ethiopian Airlines is also pushing back against reports questioning its safety culture and pilot training. Two complaints were filed with the FAA in 2015. But the airline said they operate with the highest global standards of quality and safety.     

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