US Transport Department looks into Boeing 737 Max 8's approval

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The Boeing 737 MAX-8 that dropped from the sky in October, killing 189 people, could have crashed a day earlier - had it not been for an off-duty pilot who happened to be in the cockpit, according to a report Tuesday.

Experts believe a new automated system in Boeing's flagship MAX fleet - meant to stop stalling by dipping the plane's nose - may have played a role in both crashes, with pilots unable to override it as their jets plunged downwards.

What investigators really draw attention to in the report is the airspeed and altitude issues the very same aircraft (PK-LQP) experienced during its four previous flights, particularly the one that preceded the day of the crash.

Boeing Co's commercial airplane division, facing its biggest crisis in years following deadly crashes of its flagship 737 MAX aircraft, has brought in a new vice president of engineering while dedicating another top executive to the aircraft investigations, a company email showed on Tuesday. The pilot knew how to override the automated system.

A second hearing on aviation safety is planned "in the near future to hear from industry stakeholders that would include Boeing, other aviation manufacturers, airline pilots, and other stakeholders", the committee said.

The hearing on federal oversight on commercial aviation by the Senate commerce subcommittee on aviation and space will include the US Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) acting administrator Dan Elwell, National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt and transportation department inspector general Calvin Scovel.

The FAA last week said it planned to mandate changes in the system to make it less likely to activate when there is no emergency.

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The MCAS system which is expected to be limited in the upgrade, was the system used by a Lion Air 737 Max. The agency and Boeing said they are also going to require additional training and references to it in flight manuals. The company has declined to comment on the criminal probe.

"We have been working very hard to minimize that impact", said Lucie Guillemette, the airline's executive vice president.

The Allied Pilots Association union at American Airlines Group Inc. also said details about the system weren't included in the documentation about the plane.

Ethiopia said on Sunday the crash had "clear similarities" with a Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October, according to initial analysis of the black boxes recovered from the wreckage of the March 10 disaster.

The prestige of Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa's most successful companies, and Boeing, the world's biggest planemaker and a massive USA exporter, is at stake in the inquiry.

The angle of attack is a fundamental parameter of flight, measuring the degrees between the air flow and the wing.

The pilots of the Lion Air flight remained calm for most of the flight, the sources said.

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