Pilots in the Lion Air 737 Max crash tried to prevent it by hitting an override switch over and over, unaware there were 3 other steps they needed to take, report claims

lion air plane crash debris.JPGPersonnel from Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Board examine debris from the downed Lion Air flight at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta on November 1, 2018.Beawiharta/Reuters

  • Pilots on a fatal Lion Air 737 Max flight reportedly hit an override switch dozens of times in a bid to stop them crashing, sources told The New York Times.
  • According to the sources, the switch turned off software called MCAS, which was wrongly forcing the plane into a dive.
  • Pressing the switch was the right first step, they said, but needed to be followed by pressing two more switches to turn off a motor which was pointing the plane downward.
  • The final step, the sources said, was to turn a wheel that would have righted the plane.
  • The official investigation has yet to return a conclusion. The flight crashed in October in Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board.

The pilots of the Lion Air 737 Max 8 which crashed last year reportedly hit an override switch repeatedly in an effort to save the plane, unaware that they needed to take three further steps

According to sources investigating the crash, who spoke to The New York Times, the pilots flying the Boeing plane pressed a switch meant to suppress a piece of software called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was forcing the plane into a dive.

The plane crashed less than 15 minutes after take-off from Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, killing all 189 people on board.

The sources said that, while the MCAS override switch was the right first move, there were three more steps which needed to be taken to save the plane.

lion airA Lion Air airplane takes off at Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 18, 2013Reuters

According to the investigators, the full process ought to have been:

  • Override the MCAS software.
  • Press a switch to turn off a motor controlling the angle of the nose.
  • Press a second switch to confirm the motor shut-down.
  • Turn a wheel to re-angle the plane's nose and stop the dive.

The plane spent nine minutes in a continuous dive before it hit the sea, according to a report from Reuters which cited investigative sources.

The report said audio from a cockpit recorder showed the pilots working through a technical manual for the plane to find a solution, but that they ultimately ran out of time.

Read more: The Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes show eerie similarities - here are all the things they have in common

The official investigation into the crash is still underway, and not due to be complete until August 2019.

It has taken on new urgency since a 737 Max operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed in circumstances officials say are similar to the Lion Air crash.

lion air black boxMuhammad Syaugi, the chief of Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency, holds part of the black box of the downed Lion Air JT 610 in Indonesia.Antara Foto/Muhammad Adimaja via REUTERS

Boeing is expected to roll out a software update to give pilots more control over MCAS, and make it less likely to malfunction.

After the Ethiopian Airlines crash, many countries grounded the 737 Max, including China, the US, and the whole European Union.

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