Ethiopia Airlines crash shows ‘clear similarities’ with Lion Air crash

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Two black box recorders of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 which crashed minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa (AFP)

The Ethiopian Transportation Ministry confirms black box data recovered from the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 shows ‘clear similarities’ with a Lion Air flight that crashed last October off the Indonesian coast. Both plane crashes involved the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and both happened after pilots complained of flight control problems and asked to return.

It is reported that both planes experienced erratic steep climbs and descents as well as fluctuating air speeds before crashing. According to early information obtained from the flight data recorder, the Ethiopian Airlines pilot struggled to control the plane as the automated Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) pushed the plane’s nose down shortly after takeoff. The MCAS system is an automated safety feature on the 737 MAC 8 designed to prevent the plane from entering into a stall, or losing lift.

A MCAS malfunction was implicated in the Lion Air accident in Indonesia as well.

Dagmawit Moses, Ethiopia’s Transport Minister said a preliminary report would be released within 30 days, adding that the parallels would be the ‘subject of further study during the investigation.’

The investigations will look into the flight data recorder, which collects information about the plane’s altitude and airspeed, and the cockpit voice recorder, which may help in explaining the flight control difficulties.

France’s aviation safety authority, The Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety, (BEA) confirmed that data from the plane’s cockpit voice recorder had been successfully downloaded, The BEA has not yet listened to the audio files. The audio files and data are expected to be transferred to Ethiopian investigators. Eventually, the U.S National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will assist Ethiopia in verifying and validating the data.

Following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, Boeing temporarily suspended all operations of the Boeing 737 MAX globally after many countries and airlines around the world ground the model from their fleets.

On Sunday, mourners gathered at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa to bury the 17 Ethiopians who had died in the crash, including the eight-person flight crew. Although it was unclear what the coffins contained as the impact of the crash was so severe that remains of the bodies were just charred fragments. Families are still awaiting identification of the bodies which could take up to 6 months for DNA testing.

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