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Pilot reportedly saved jet one day before Lion Air crash

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Boeing CEO Dennis Mullenburg explains what his company is doing to ensure the safety of passengers after the Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes.
USA TODAY

The day before a Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed off of Indonesia last year, killing all 189 people aboard, pilots on the same flight struggled for control of the same aircraft but were saved by an off-duty pilot who was on the plane, a new report shows. 

Lion Air Flight 610 slammed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29, and a preliminary investigation has focused on a malfunctioning flight-control system. The day before, a different crew was struggling with the same issue on the flight. The problem, however,  was correctly diagnosed by the “dead-head” pilot flying in a jump seat, Bloomberg reported, citing multiple sources familiar with Indonesia’s investigation of the crash.

The presence of a third pilot in the cockpit wasn’t contained in Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee’s report on the crash and hasn’t previously been reported, Bloomberg reported.

“All the data and information that we have on the flight and the aircraft have been submitted to the Indonesian NTSC. We can’t provide additional comment at this stage due the ongoing investigation on the accident,” Lion Air spokesman Danang Prihantoro told Bloomberg.

The safety system new to the 737 Max planes, was designed to keep planes from stalling. But it has drawn scrutiny after the Lion Air crash and the crash less than five months later of an Ethiopian Airlines flight. Both planes crashed within minutes of takeoff, and investigators have said they found similarities in the disasters.

In an open letter Monday addressed to airlines, passengers and the aviation community, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said his company will soon release a software update and offer related pilot training for the 737 Max to “address concerns.” The planes’ new flight-control software is suspected of playing a role in the crashes.

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