CHICAGO (CN) – Indonesian relatives of the victims of the deadly Lion Air crash last month claim in a federal lawsuit filed Monday that Boeing did not inform pilots about a key feature of the aircraft’s computer system.
Last month, a Lion Air plane took off from Karawang, Indonesia, en route to another island in Indonesia and crashed minutes later, killing all 189 people on board.
Investigators are still trying to piece together what caused the crash. The weather was fine, and the flight was routine. The plane – a 737 MAX – was one of Boeing’s newest models, and the pilots were highly experienced.
However, safety experts say Boeing withheld information about a new feature of the plane’s computer, which automatically responds when the aircraft is in a stall by lowering the plane’s nose.
Aviation experts told the Wall Street Journal last week that this feature, intended to help pilots avoid accidentally raising a plane’s nose too high, “under unusual conditions can push it down unexpectedly and so strongly that flight crews can’t pull it back up.”
Represented by Illinois attorney Floyd Wisner, Bayu Saputra and other Indonesian relatives of deceased passengers sued Boeing in Chicago federal court on Monday, alleging that the unexplained feature is unreasonably dangerous and contributed to the plane crash.
“The accident aircraft’s above-described flight control feature commanded dangerous downward movements of the accident aircraft unauthorized by the flight crew and did not allow the flight crew a means or method to timely and safely manually override an improperly-commanded downward movement,” the 10-page complaint states.
The lawsuit continues, “The [aircraft flight manual] for the accident aircraft did not provide instruction as to a procedure to be followed by the flight crew to timely and safely correct an improperly commanded downward movement and to recover control of the accident aircraft.”
The relatives seek punitive damages for claims of negligence and defective design.
Boeing did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment, but in a statement following the WSJ report, it said: “We are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this incident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved.”
“We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX. Safety remains our top priority and is a core value for everyone at Boeing,” the company added.