Mar 20, 2019

Report: Off-duty pilot saved doomed Lion Air plane on flight before fatal crash

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The day before a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft plunged into the Java Sea, killing all 189 aboard, an off-duty pilot riding in the flight deck jumpseat of the same aircraft played a pivotal role in averting a similar crash, Bloomberg reports. On the flight that landed safely, the third pilot helped disable a malfunctioning flight-control system using an available checklist and saved the plane from crashing,

Details: The pilot disabled the plane's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) from forcing the aircraft's nose down toward the ground, according to sources familiar who spoke with Bloomberg. The report adds that according to the Indonesia safety committee report, the plane had "multiple failures on previous flights and hadn't been properly repaired." One of the failures, it is widely thought, was a malfunctioning angle of attack sensor that was feeding erroneous information to the software system.

Our thought bubble: Per Axios' Andrew Freedman: This story makes it more clear that Lion Air should not have flown the plane on the day of the crash without maintenance first, since a previous flight hit such a severe problem. It also shows that not all pilots in a flight deck would correctly diagnosed what the MCAS system was doing and how to shut it off. However, the presence of a third pilot in the flight deck is not unusual, as that routinely occurs when pilots are commuting and flights are full. However, it's extremely rare that an off duty pilot plays such a pivotal role in preventing an accident.

Go deeper: Transportation secretary asks for internal probe of Boeing certification

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Biden rolls out new policies in effort to court Sanders supporters

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The Biden campaign announced two new policies on Thursday on health care and student debt that are squarely aimed at appealing to supporters of Bernie Sanders, who ended his campaign for the Democratic nomination on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The policies don't go as far as Sanders' platform, but they signal that Biden is serious about incorporating elements of his former rival's agenda in an effort to help unify the Democratic Party and defeat President Trump in the general election.

Reports: Saudi Arabia and Russia reach major deal to cut oil production

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OPEC+, led by mega-producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, reached a tentative agreement Thursday to impose large cuts in oil production as the coronavirus pandemic fuels an unprecedented collapse in demand, per Bloomberg and Reuters.

Why it matters: The revival of the OPEC+ collaboration patches up the early March rupture between the countries, which had pushed already depressed prices down much further by threatening to unleash even more new supplies into the saturated market.