There are certain similarities between the ill-fated journeys of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302: Both were flying Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft and both crashed just minutes after takeoff, sending a combined total of 346 people to their deaths in a span of five months.
According to the , another galling similarity unites the two tragedies: Neither plane was equipped with a critical safety feature that could have potentially averted the disaster, because airplane manufacturer Boeing charged an extra fee that both airlines opted not to pay.
Both incidents have placed a harsh spotlight on Boeing, which has seen all of Max 8 and 9 jets grounded by aviation authorities throughout the world in the immediate wake of the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy which killed 157 earlier this month. Authorities investigating the crash have remarked upon the "clear similarities" between it and October's Lion Air disaster.
Central to the investigations is a sensor located on the plane's fuselage, which reportedly fed inaccurate data into the cockpit of Lion Air Flight 610, warning that the aircraft's tail was too high. The glitch triggered the plane's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which tilts the plane's nose downward in an effort to avoid stalling. Pilots of the Lion Air flight struggled to overcome the dipping nose, and ultimately failed when their plane collided with Java Sea just 15 minutes after takeoff, killing 189. The Department of Transportation's (DOT) Inspector General is opening an investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) approval process of Boeing's planes.
It's still unknown what caused the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy, but pilots were reportedly unprepared to deal with the sudden onset of a "flight control problem" that occurred just two-minutes after takeoff.
Those difficulties and the unavoidable tragedy could have been averted by an additional safety feature which both planes lacked, according to the Times. One optional feature both airlines declined to purchase is the angle of attack indicator, which displays the readings of two sensors meant to gauge the position of the plane's tail relative to its nose. Another, called the disagree light, lights up when there's a discrepancy between the two readings. The disagree light will be a standard feature on all forthcoming Boeing 737 Max planes, a source familiar with the matter told the Times.
Boeing has also pledged to issue a a software update across its entire 737 Max fleet, aimed with amending the faulty software glitches. That update will reportedly come at the end of March.