Lion Air crash shows cockpit computers are no substitute for pilot skills

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When an altitude sensor failed on a Turkish Airlines Boeing 737 flight to Amsterdam in 2009, the jetliner’s computerized flight controls erroneously cut the engine thrust. The pilots didn’t understand what happened in time to prevent a crash.

The accident had striking similarities to the recent Lion Air tragedy in Indonesia, which took the lives of 189 people. A failed sensor led flight computers to put the 737 MAX jetliner into a series of dives, based on the erroneous calculation that it was losing lift and about to stall. The crew didn’t diagnose the problem, which could have been remedied with the flip of a switch, and the plane fell into the Java Sea. The investigation into the crash is ongoing.

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