Virgin Australia to wait for Lion Air crash probe before confirming order

Virgin Air has ordered 30 of the Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, like this IcelandAir model. Photo: Getty
Virgin Air has ordered 30 of the Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, like this IcelandAir model. Photo: Getty

VIRGIN Australia is waiting for the outcome of an investigation into last week’s fatal Lion Air jet crash to see if any changes need to be made for its order of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.

Boeing and US aviation authorities have issued global safety warnings to airlines following the October 29 crash of the Lion Air 737 Max 8 aircraft into the Java Sea that killed all 189 people on board.

Virgin has ordered 30 of the fuel-efficient 737 Max 8 aircraft, which are due for delivery in November 2019 and will replace its existing 737-700/800 planes.

It’s understood the order remains in place but Virgin Australia is monitoring the outcome of an investigation by Indonesian authorities into the crash to see if any recommendations are made for changes to be made to the aircraft.

Singapore Airlines’ regional carrier SilkAir is currently the only airline operating the 737 Max 8 aircraft in Australia.

Comment was being sought from SilkAir, which began flying 737 Max 8 aircraft between Singapore, Cairns and Darwin in January this year.

Indonesian investigators on Wednesday said a crucial sensor was replaced on the Lion Air jet the day before it crashed, possibly exacerbating other problems with the plane.

The “angle of attack” (AOA) sensor was designed to monitor the angle of the aircraft nose to stop it from stalling and diving.

But the sensor was replaced on the doomed plane after Lion Air workers tried to fix problems with its airspeed indicator.

Boeing said it was co-operating with Indonesian authorities as they investigate the Lion Air crash.

In its safety warning to airlines on Wednesday, Boeing directed them to existing flight crew procedures to address issues with erroneous input from an AOA sensor.

“The investigation into Lion Air flight 610 is ongoing and Boeing continues to cooperate fully and provide technical assistance at the request and under the direction of government authorities investigating the accident,” Boeing said.

The warning prompted the US Federal Aviation Administration to issue its own emergency airworthiness directive, telling airlines with Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft to follow correct procedures if pilots receive erroneous information from an AOA sensor.

The FAA directive applies to about 250 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft operating worldwide.

“This condition, if not addressed, could cause the flight crew to have difficulty controlling the airplane, and lead to excessive nose-down attitude, significant altitude loss, and possible impact with terrain,” the FAA said.

Boeing has previously described its 737 Max stable of aircraft as the fastest-selling in the company’s history.

More than 100 airlines have placed 4700 orders for the aircraft.