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Lion Air Crash Sheds Light on Cockpit Automation's Dark Side

  • Safety features have reduced crashes, but can confound pilots
  • Lion Air pilots battled software that sent plane into nosedive
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As Boeing Co. was developing its latest version of the 737 airliner, it discovered the design was slightly more prone to a loss of control. So the company added a computer-driven safety feature -- one that is now a focus of the investigation into a fatal crash last month near Indonesia.

If preliminary findings are borne out, the Oct. 29 crash of the Lion Air 737 Max 8 may end up being one of a number of cases in which the cockpit automation that’s made flying safer also had the unintended consequence of confusing pilots and contributing to tragedy.