WSJ: Boeing withheld info on plane involved in Indonesia crash

(CNN) – Boeing allegedly withheld information about the potential hazards of new flight-control features on the model of plane involved in the deadly Lion Air crash in Indonesia last month, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Citing “safety experts involved in the investigation, as well as midlevel FAA officials and airline pilots,” the Journal reported Monday that the automated stall-prevention system on Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 models — intended to help cockpit crews avoid mistakenly raising a plane’s nose dangerously high — “under unusual conditions can push it down unexpectedly and so strongly that flight crews can’t pull it back up.”

According to the report, Boeing told airlines that such a situation “can result in a steep dive or crash — even if pilots are manually flying the jetliner and don’t expect flight-control computers to kick in.”

In a statement in response to the WSJ report, Boeing did not specifically address the safety claims. “We are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this incident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved,” the company said, reiterating previous comments about the October 29 crash.

“We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX.”

“What seems to have happened here is that a new version or a modified anti-stall capacity was added which pushes the nose down automatically.

If it’s true, it is beyond comprehension that Boeing did not tell the airline and pilots about this,” said CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest.

He added that if the WSJ report is confirmed, the matter will be one for aviation regulators to take up, rather than individual airlines.

“The issue is how much information to give the pilots about the systems on board so they can respond in an emergency,” Quest said, adding that pilots are often overloaded with readouts and signals from multiple devices and monitors that can risk distracting them at the worst possible moment.

Lion Air did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the WSJ story.