Ethiopian Airlines Crew Complied With Procedures: Preliminary Crash Report

by Kim Boateng Posted on April 4th, 2019

The crew of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 followed procedures from Boeing but could not stop the plane from repeatedly nose-diving and ultimately crashing last month, killing all 157 people on board, Ethiopian officials said on Thursday.

Presenting the preliminary report into the crash, Ethiopia’s Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges told reporters in Addis Ababa that “the crew performed all the procedures repeatedly provided by the manufacturer but was not able to control the aircraft.”

Ethiopian officials said they could not yet determine if there was a structural problem with the aircraft, based on data retrieved from the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

Moges said the Boeing 737 Max 8 had a valid certificate of airworthiness, the crew had necessary qualifications and takeoff appeared to be normal.

“Since repetitive uncommanded aircraft nose down conditions are noticed … it is recommend that the aircraft control system shall be reviewed by the manufacturer,” Moges said.

“Despite [the pilots’] hard work and full compliance with the emergency procedures, it was very unfortunate that they could not recover the airplane from the persistence (of) nose diving,” Ethiopian Airlines wrote in a statement on Thursday.

In a statement, Boeing said, “We are reviewing the preliminary findings.”

Officials said that “additional documents” gathered from the operator and aviation authorities, as well as remnants collected at the accident site, were also used in the preliminary report’s conclusion.

The full report into the crash will be released within a year, Moges said. She added that an international team investigating the crash includes the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S., France’s BEA and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, among others.

The Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on March 10, just months after an earlier crash of a Lion Air jet in Indonesia, of the same model plane. Ethiopian officials had previously said readings from black box data showed “clear” similarities between the two flights.

The similarities involve an anti-stall system on both jets, the MCAS, designed to push the nose of the plane down if flight control systems sense a problem with low air speed. Both the planes appeared to ascend and descend erratically, suggesting the pilots struggled to maintain control.

The two crashes killed a combined 346 people and led to the plane being grounded in dozens of countries across the world, including the United States.

Boeing continues to work on a software fix for its flight control systems, which was initially slated to be submitted to the FAA last week. But the FAA said in a statement on Monday that it now expects Boeing’s submission in the coming weeks.

“Time is needed for additional work by Boeing as the result of an ongoing review of the 737 MAX Flight Control System to ensure that Boeing has identified and appropriately addressed all pertinent issues,” the FAA wrote.

Daniel Elwell, acting head of the FAA, testified before a Senate committee last week, defending the agency’s decision to ground the plane days after most other countries had already done so, as well as the FAA’s process for reviewing changes to plane design.

“The FAA is directly involved in the testing and certification of new and novel features and technologies,” he said in his opening remarks.

Last month, an analysis Boeing delivered to the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the safety of MCAS “had several crucial flaws.” Anonymous sources inside the FAA told said that the agency inappropriately delegated the airplane’s certification to Boeing employees.

Boeing said there were “significant mischaracterizations” in description of flaws in the analysis.

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