Indonesian investigation points to automation as possible cause of Lion Air crash - report

Data from the black box of the Lion Air flight that crashed in to the Java Sea last month has revealed the aircraft was suffering from incorrect sensor readings and the pilots "fought to save the plane almost from the moment it took off," according to a report in the New York Times.

The initial report into the crash that claimed the lives of 189 people is due to be released later on Wednesday but information obtained by The Times says the Boeing 737s nose was being repeatedly forced down by the aircraft automation system in response to the incorrect sensor information.

The data shows that pilots battled with the aircraft for 11 minutes, continuously pulling the nose back up, but they finally lost control and the aircraft flew into the ocean at over 700 km/h.

This new information has backed up the theory the crash was caused by a computerised system installed on the latest generation of Boeing 737s which is meant to prevent the aircraft from stalling, but instead it has pointed the nose down due to receiving incorrect information from the sensors outside the aircraft.

pitot tube on aircraft
The automation system on-board uses pitot tubes to help collect data. Photo credit: Getty Images

The automation system on-board uses pitot tubes to help collect data to calculate the wind speed of the aircraft, and there has been widespread speculation they may have played a role in the Lion Air crash. 

Pitot tubes have been blamed for numerous crashes over the past decade. In 2008, an Air NZ A320 crashed off the coast of France during a test flight killing seven people on-board. A year later an Air France flight to Paris from Rio crashed into the Atlantic Ocean after weather conditions caused the sensors to freeze over.

Boeing had planned to speak with airlines about potential issues with their latest 737s, but that conference call was cancelled earlier this week.