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Boeing knew of 737 MAX safety system glitch year before deadly crash

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Boeing Co did not tell US regulators for more than a year that it inadvertently made an alarm alerting pilots to a mismatch of flight data optional on the 737 MAX, instead of standard as on earlier 737s, but insisted on Sunday the missing display represented no safety risk

The US plane maker has been trying for weeks to dispel suggestions that it made airlines pay for safety features after it emerged that an alert designed to show discrepancies in Angle of Attack readings from two sensors was optional on the 737 MAX.

Erroneous data from a sensor responsible for measuring the angle at which the wing slices through the air – known as the Angle of Attack – is suspected of triggering a flawed piece of software that pushed the plane downward in two recent crashes.

In a statement, Boeing said it only discovered once deliveries of the 737 MAX had begun in 2017 that the so-called AOA Disagree alert was optional instead of standard as it had intended, but added that was not critical safety data.

A Federal Aviation Administration official told Reuters on Sunday that Boeing waited 13 months before informing the agency in November 2018.

By becoming optional, the alert had been treated in the same way as a separate indicator showing raw AOA data, which is seldom used by commercial pilots and had been an add-on for years.

“Neither the angle of attack indicator nor the AOA Disagree alert are necessary for the safe operation of the airplane,” Boeing said.

“They provide supplemental information only, and have never been considered safety features on commercial jet transport airplanes.”

Boeing said a Safety Review Board convened after a fatal Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October corroborated its prior conclusion that the alert was not necessary for the safe operation of commercial aircraft and could safely be tackled in a future system update.

The FAA backed that assessment but criticized Boeing for being slow to disclose the problem.

Boeing briefed the FAA on the display issue in November, after the Lion Air accident, and a special panel deemed it to be “low risk,” an FAA spokesman said.

“However, Boeing’s timely or earlier communication with the operators would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion,” he added.

Boeing attributed the error to software delivered to the company from an outside source, but did not give details.

INDUSTRY DEBATE

Sunday’s statement marked the first time since the two fatal accidents that Boeing explicitly acknowledged doing something inadvertently in the development of the 737 MAX, albeit on an issue that it contends has no impact on safety.

Boeing has said the feeding of erroneous Angle of Attack data to a system called MCAS that pushed the planes lower was a common link in two wider chains of events leading to both crashes, but has stopped short of admitting error on that front.

The angle of attack measures the angle between the air flow and the wing and helps determine whether the plane is able to fly correctly. If the angle becomes too steep, the flow of air over the wing is disturbed, throwing the plane into an aerodynamic stall. That means it starts to fall instead of fly.

Although the angle itself is key for onboard systems, the industry has debated for years whether such data should be included in already crowded cockpit displays because it is directly related to airspeed, which pilots already scrutinize.

Some analysts and academics say having the AOA Disagree alert installed would have helped Lion Air maintenance crew diagnose a problem on the penultimate flight of the 737 MAX jet that crashed in October, killing all 189 on board.

The 737 MAX was grounded worldwide over safety concerns following the Ethiopian crash in March, killing 157 people.

When the jet returns to service, all new aircraft will have a working AOA Disagree alert as a standard feature and a no-charge optional indicator showing the underlying data, Boeing said. That restores the situation found on the displays of previous 737NG models since around the middle of last decade.

Airlines with grounded 737 MAX jets will be able to activate the AOA Disagree function directly.

Boeing is also developing a software upgrade and training changes to the MCAS system that must be approved by global regulators before the jets can fly again.

Boeing has yet to formally submit the upgrades to the FAA for approval but could do as early as this week once it completes a special test flight.

Federal prosecutors, the Transportation Department inspector general’s office and a blue-ribbon panel are also looking into the 737 MAX’s certification. A U.S. House of Representatives panel will hold a hearing on the plane’s status with the FAA’s acting chief, Dan Elwell, and National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt on May 15.

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Sushma Swaraj congratulates PM Narendra Modi on ‘big win’ in Lok Sabha elections

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Senior BJP leader and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Thursday congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and thanked the people on the BJP’s “big victory” in the Lok Sabha polls.

Riding on a massive Modi wave sweeping through most parts of India, the BJP was set to return to power as it led in 295 seats while the Congress trailed far behind with 50, according to trends released Thursday by the Election Commission for all 542 seats that went to polls.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi — Many Congratulations for securing such a big victory for the BJP. I am thankful to the people,” Swaraj tweeted.

With its allies, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance could win 343 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. In the last election, the NDA had 336 seats while BJP accounted for 282.

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Lok Sabha election results: 2019 is more like 1977 and 1980 than 2014 elections

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has firmly established itself as the dominant pole of Indian politics in the 2019 general elections.

If the current trends hold , the 2019 verdict will have a close resemblance to the results of the 1977 and 1980 elections in terms of the dominance of one political party in India. Data scarped from the Election Commission of India (ECI) website shows that at 11:03 am, around 19% of the total votes had been counted in the country. The BJP is leading in 288 parliamentary constituencies (PCs) with a vote share of around 40%, nine percentage points more than what it had in 2014.

No political party in India has had such a high level of vote share after the 1984 elections, which were held in an extremely polarised environment months after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The Congress had a vote share of 48.1% and it won 415 PCs in the 1984 elections.

The 2019 results, if the current trends hold, will be closer to what the Janata Party and the Congress achieved in the 1977 and 1980 elections. In 1980, the Congress won 353 PCs with an all-India vote share of 42.7%. In 1977, it was the Janata Party which got 295 PCs with a vote share of 41.3%.

The 2019 verdict, or what it looks like as of now, also has some regional exceptions to the overall trend, like in 1977 and 1980. Even though the Janata Party swept the northern region of the country in 1977, the Congress performed really well in Andhra Pradesh (41 out of 42 PCs) and Karnataka (26 out of 28 PCs). Similarly in 1980, the Congress could win only 4 PCs in West Bengal despite winning the majority of seats in almost all major states.

As of now, the BJP and its partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are either leading or making major advances in all major states except Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, which are voting clearly for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (DMK) led alliance and YSR Congress Party respectively.

The Congress, despite adding around four percentage points to its 2019 vote share has not been able to make any significant gains in terms of seats. Also, the party has suffered major reverses in the Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where it defeated the BJP in the 2018 assembly elections.

After the 2014 elections, when the BJP crossed the half way mark in the Lok Sabha with just 31% vote share, lack of opposition unity was seen as a key factor behind the party’s victory. With the BJP all set to cross the 40% vote share mark, the opposition will have to reinvent its chemistry with the electorate rather than just arithmetic.

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Supreme Court dismisses new petition on verifying all votes with VVPAT, says ‘let country elect its government’

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a new petition that sought matching of all voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips with electronic voting machines (EVMs) during the counting of votes on May 23.

Calling the petition a “nuisance”, the court said, “We won’t entertain such a plea over and over again. Can’t come in the way of people electing their representatives. Let country elect its government.”

A vacation bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra refused to entertain the plea filed by a Chennai-based organisation ‘Tech for All’ saying that a larger bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had already dealt with the matter and passed an order, news agency PTI reported.

The apex court had on May 7 dismissed a review plea filed by 21 Opposition leaders led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu seeking that random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs be increased to 50 per cent.

The top court had on April 8 directed the Election Commission to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs from one to five polling booths per assembly segment in Lok Sabha polls, saying it would provide greater satisfaction not just to political parties but also to the entire electorate.

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