Relatives and officials visit Ethiopian plane crash site while a pilot says preliminary data shows the pilots of the aircraft “had lost control.” (March 13)
On a day when thousands mourned the 157 victims of last Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash, Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges said “clear similarities’’ were found between that accident and a fatal Lion Air crash Oct. 29, 2018, in Indonesia.
Both doomed flights involved the new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, putting the onus on the American manufacturer to find the source of the catastrophic failure of its now-grounded plane.
The flight data and voice recorders, or black boxes, were recovered in good condition and the preliminary information retrieved from them confirmed satellite-based tracking data that indicated the flights followed comparable paths, Moges said.
In both instances, the pilots encountered problems controlling the plane shortly after takeoff and tried to return to the airport but nosedived before making it back. The Lion Air flight plunged into the Java Sea a few minutes after leaving Jakarta, killing all 189 aboard. Both jets were captained by experienced pilots with more than 6,000 flight hours.
“Clear similarities were noted between Ethiopian Air Flight 302 and Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610, which will be the subject of further study during the investigation,’’ Moges told news reporters Sunday, adding that the Ethiopian government plans to release detailed findings within a month.
The parallels between the crashes led the European Union, China, Australia, Canada and other countries to ground the MAX 8 planes. Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration initially stood by the jetliner’s airworthiness, but facing increased pressure from Congress and other groups, President Donald Trump ordered the aircraft to be taken out of service Wednesday.
At the time, Southwest and American Airlines were flying a limited number of MAX 8’s – less than five percent of their fleet – while United operated the larger 737 MAX 9, which was also grounded.
It will be up to Boeing to prove the jets are safe amid suspicions that faulty sensors and software could have contributed to the two crashes. There were about 350 MAX 8’s in operation around the world before they were taken out of circulation, and the Chicago-based company had more than 4,600 on order, according to the FAA.
In the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, thousands grieved over their countrymen killed in the crash, accompanying 17 empty caskets draped in the national flag through the city’s streets. Some victims’ relatives fainted and fell to the ground.
Mourners were given bags with a kilo (2.2 pounds) of earth from the crash site outside the city, a gesture meant as a temporary replacement for their loved ones’ remains, which will take a long time to identify.
The victims hailed from 35 countries and included many humanitarian workers headed to Nairobi. Elias Bilew said he had worked with one of the victims, Sintayehu Shafi, for the past eight years.
“He was such a good person,” Bilew said. “He doesn’t deserve this. He was the pillar for his whole family.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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