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

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

The US Department of Transportation, Congress and the Justice Department are spearheading the inquiries into what the Federal Aviation Administration may have overlooked when it said the aircraft was safe.

- The investigation turned to the Ethiopian flight's cockpit voice recorder, as the words of the pilot and first officer could reveal what led to the crash.

Boeing was sued on Wednesday in federal court in Chicago by the estate of one of the Lion Air crash victims in which the plaintiffs referred to the Ethiopian crash to support a wrongful death claim against the company.

As the captain worked to keep the plane in the air, the jet's computer incorrectly sensed a stall and kept trying to push the plane's nose down.

The MCAS system which is expected to be limited in the upgrade, was the system used by a Lion Air 737 Max.

Communications showed that in the final moments, the captain tried in vain to find the right procedure in the handbook, while the first officer was unable to control the plane.

The combination of factors required to bring down a plane in these circumstances suggests other issues may also have occurred in the Ethiopia crash, said Jeffrey Guzzetti, who also directed accident investigations at FAA and is now a consultant.

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The Ethiopian authorities and France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA), which examined the black box flight data, said they found "clear similarities" between the Ethiopian and Lion Air crashes. The company is facing its biggest crisis in years following two deadly crashes that involved its fast-selling 737 MAX jet. "They didn't seem to know the trim was moving down", the source said. Now, media reports indicate that CVR data is about to be published, giving a glimpse into the human side of the tragic events and raising serious questions about pilots' awareness of systems on 737 MAX planes.

Some U.S. pilots have complained they were unaware of the new system, which is mentioned in the index of the aircraft's full manual but not the text, according to a version seen by Reuters.

A different crew on the same plane the evening before had the same situation but solved it after running through three checklists, though they did not pass on that information to the doomed Indonesian crew, according to a preliminary report released in November.

"Our credibility as leaders in aviation is being damaged", wrote Chesley Sullenberger, a US pilot famed for landing a jet on the Hudson River, saving all 155 people aboard, a decade ago.

In Ethiopia, which is leading the investigation, experts were poring over the in-flight recording of Captain Yared Getachew and First Officer Ahmednur Mohammed.

For now, global regulators have grounded the existing fleet of more than 300 MAX aircraft, and deliveries of almost 5,000 more - worth well over $500 billion (£377 billion) - are on hold. The MAX entered service in 2017. Boeing uses the system in its 737 MAX series planes.