Thousands of travelers fly on Boeing jets everyday throughout the country. Most believe that Boeing jets are safe and well maintained by airlines despite the recent prolonged design fault issue with Boeing’s Max 8s. However, there are times when accidents do happen and people die or are seriously injured. If it is found that the airline or the aircraft’s manufacturer’s negligence caused the accident you should contact an aviation accident attorney to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim to compensate you and your family for your loss.

Recently, a Boeing 737-500 crashed in Indonesia, killing all on board. Indonesian investigators who were responsible for finding the cause of the Jan. 9th crash of the Sriwijaya Air plane have found that a malfunctioning automatic throttle may have caused the pilots to lose control. It appears from an observer that the auto-throttle was producing more thrust than it should have in one of the Boeing. 737-500’s two engines before the plane crashed into the Java Sea. This is not the only time this sort of problem has arisen as this was the cause of a fatal crash in 1995 in Romania on a plane of a different model.

If there is any unequal thrust from an engine it may cause the plane to turn abruptly or even roll over, causing a sudden descent if the pilots are unable to handle the incident properly. The pilots need to compensate for this event by setting the power manually. If it is proven that the auto-throttle failure is the cause of the crash it could be possible that it was the pilot’s action that caused it due to lack of training. The quality of maintenance could be a contributing factor too. Similar to an autopilot, an auto-throttle on the 737-500 may be used by pilots to set the plane’s speed automatically, which reduces workload and engine wear.

Twin-engine jets like the 737 have the capacity to fly on a single engine in an emergency, so an auto-throttle failure that caused unequal thrust technically shouldn’t have caused the crash to take place. However, if the unequal thrust is severe it may cause several problems when trying to control the plane particularly if the aircraft is in cloud or the pilots fail to monitor closely the plane’s condition which due to the delay may cause the pilots to lose complete control of the plane.

1989 was the first year Boeing’s 737-500 took to the air and the aircraft involved in the Indonesian crash entered service in May 1994. These jets belong to an older model of aircraft than the 737 Max that has been involved in two fatal accidents, including not far off the coast of Indonesia in late 2018. These accidents led to these models being grounded.  The Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) chief investigator, Nurcahyo Utomo, confirmed that a malfunctioning throttle was one factor being looked at as a possible cause of an accident but it appears that both engines seem to have been functioning before the plane struck the water.

There has been conflicting information revealed by the Indonesian publication, ‘Tempo,’ that reported that there had been repeated malfunctions of the plane’s auto-throttle system before the crash took place.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was aware of potential problems with the auto-throttle and in 2001 had ordered operators of the 737-500 in the country to replace the auto-throttle computer after it had received reports of unequal thrust taking place.

As this problem with the auto-throttle was known by Boeing for several years it had released instructions on how pilots should correct it. Despite that, many incidents still took place because the crew was unable to recognize what was happening in time. According to the FAA in 2001 the procedure given by Boeing was not sufficient when considering the potential human factor when the pilots failed to detect an abnormality that developed over a longer period of time, ‘’resulting in an excessive bank angle for the airplane.”  Statistics indicate that out of 8 incidents pilots were unable to respond correctly and 2 aircraft rolled more than 40 degrees.

Aviation design and manufacturing errors are rare but the consequences drastic

Most aviation accidents are due to poor maintenance and pilot error in small privately owned planes, even though design and manufacturing errors have hit the headlines in recent years because of the huge loss of life when a commercial airplane crashes. If you, or a loved one, have been a victim of any kind of aviation accident, you should contact a dedicated and experienced aviation accident attorney at the Keith Williams Law Group in Nashville. You can contact Keith Williams at (615) 313-3999.