A Boeing 737 Max operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed shortly after takeoff Sunday, killing all 157 people on board, as the second deadly accident in five months raises fresh concerns about the U.S. manufacturer’s best-selling jet.
Flight ET302 plunged to the ground minutes after leaving Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi, Kenya. The pilot reported problems shortly after takeoff and was given clearance to return to the airport, Chief Executive Officer Tewolde Gebre Mariam said at a press conference. The Boeing 737 Max 8 hadn’t experienced any apparent mechanical issues on an earlier flight from Johannesburg, he said.
The latest crash will stoke concerns about the safety of the Boein 737 Max, less than two years after the popular narrow-body started commercial service. A Lion Air plane of the same model plunged into the Java Sea off the coast of Indonesia on Oct. 29, killing 189 passengers and crew. A preliminary report indicated that pilots struggled to maintain control following an equipment malfunction.
Boeing, FAA To Assist Investigation
Boeing (BA) said it was preparing to send a technical team to assist the accident investigation of the Ethiopian Airlines plane, which was delivered new in November to Africa’s biggest carrier. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board likewise plan to work with Ethiopian authorities in probing the cause of the crash.
The FAA has been working with Boeing to devise a software fix for an obscure anti-stall measure created for the 737 Max. The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, triggered by an erroneous sensor reading, had pushed the Lion Air plane down dozens of times before it crashed.
Boeing 737 Max Crashed Soon After Takeoff
The doomed Ethiopian jetliner left Addis Ababa at 8:38 a.m. local time, and contact was lost six minutes later, the company said in a statement. There were people from 35 nations on board, including 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians and eight Americans. The United Nations, which is hosting an environmental conference this week in Nairobi, confirmed that some “friends and colleagues” were lost on the flight.
The aircraft bore the registration ET-AVJ and was delivered new on Nov. 15, according to Flight Global’s Cirium database. The plane was powered by two Leap-1B engines made by CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric (GE) and Safran SA.
While Africa has a generally poor aviation safety record compared with global norms, Ethiopian Airlines has built Addis Ababa into a major hub feeding travelers from around the world into dozens of African cities in competition with carriers such as Dubai-based Emirates.
State-owned Ethiopian, Africa’s only consistently profitable carrier, is known for operating a modern fleet that features Boeing 787 Dreamliners and the latest Airbus (EADSY) A350, as well as the 737 Max.
Captain Yared Getachew had amassed more than 8,000 flight hours, according to to the airline, while first officer Ahmed Nur Mohammod had spent about 200 hours aloft.
Boeing 737 Key To Airlines’ Fleets
The Boeing single-aisle model, revamped with larger engines, is the latest version of a jetliner that has formed the backbone of global fleets for five decades. Southwest Airlines (LUV) is the largest customer, and other prominent buyers include American Airlines (AAL), United Airlines (UAL), Ryanair (RYAAY) and India’s Jet Airways and SpiceJet.
Indian regulators are seeking information from Boeing and may require additional safety measures.
The Lion Air tragedy in Indonesia, like the Ethiopian Airlines crash, occurred shortly after takeoff. Data from the Indonesian jet’s flight recorder showed that an errant sensor had signaled that the plane was in danger of stalling, causing the MCAS software to push the aircraft’s nose downward.
The pilots on the Lion Air jet counteracted the movement repeatedly, but the cycle repeated itself more than two dozen times before the plane entered its final dive. The accident inflamed controversy over pilot training for the 737 Max, since Boeing hadn’t mentioned the anti-stall feature in training materials or most flight crew manuals. There’s no direct evidence linking the disaster with this weekend’s tragedy in Ethiopia.
Southwest Airlines, American Airlines Respond
Southwest Airlines, which has 31 Max 8 planes, said it was in contact with Boeing about the Ethiopian crash. The Dallas-based carrier said it remained “confident in the safety and airworthiness of our fleet of more than 750 Boeing aircraft.” American Airlines, which flies 24 of the planes, said it would closely monitor the investigation.
Southwest and American said last week that they hadn’t yet received any information from Boeing about a software update for the MCAS system on the Max. Both carriers said their planes haven’t experienced any problems related to the MCAS issue that investigators have focused on in the Lion Air crash.
Representatives of the pilots unions at Southwest Airlines and American Airlines said they were monitoring the Ethiopian Airlines investigation and trying to learn more about the accident.
“We’re just processing the information,” said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the pilots union at American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier. “Certainly we’re very interested in learning more, but it is too early to draw conclusions. We fly the 737 Max, so we’re aware of its recent history, and we’re watching this as part of our last line of defense for our passengers and maintaining a safe operation.”
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: