Ethiopian Airlines investigators found a key piece of evidence this week that strongly suggests a link to last weekend’s doomed flight killing 157 with the October Lion Air crash in Indonesia.
Investigators found a device called a jackscrew, which controls the angle of the plane’s horizontal stabilizers. The stabilizers were found in the upward position, which would have forced the nose of the plane down, sources told the New York Times.
While there could have been other reasons for stabilizers to be in the upward position, the device can be triggered by the automated system that is the same in question as the Lion Air crash.
“All we can say definitely is that the trim was in a position similar to the position found on the Lion Air airplane and it would cause the nose to go down,” John Cox, an airline-safety consultant with Safety Operating Systems, told reporters.
The former safety official for the Air Line Pilots Association said he was briefed on the evidence Thursday by people familiar with the investigation.
“This will be consistent with a nose-down flight path, which they think is likely with the Ethiopian airplane,” he added.
The new automated system on the Boeing 737 Max 8 jets was designed to prevent the airplane from stalling.
French aviation officials started examining the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on Friday in hopes to find clues to what happened after takeoff last Sunday.
The United States was one of the last countries to ground the U.S.-made Max 8 aircraft, following Britain, the European Union, Canada and many other countries. That delay has the public and federal lawmakers questioning the Federal Aviation Administration.
A preliminary investigation into the October Lion Air crash pointed to a faulty sensor that caused an automated system to push the nose of the plane down.
Image: Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 (ET-AVM), the same aircraft that crashed in Ethiopia on 10 March 2019, is seen at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when it was first delivered to Ethiopia on 02 July 2018 (issued 10 March 2019).