Ethiopian transport minister Dagmawi Moges reveals details of the findings in the preliminary accident report on flight ET 302 in Addis Ababa Thursday. (Photo: Nahom Tesfaye)

Report Suggests Ethiopian Max 8 Crash Cause

Ethiopian aviation authorities reported April 4 that the pilots of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 that crashed on March 10 six minutes after takeoff followed Boeing’s recommended procedure for regaining control of the aircraft during its fateful dive. Revealing details of the still-unpublished preliminary accident report in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian transport minister Dagmawi Moges also confirmed that the airplane repeatedly assumed an uncommanded nose-down attitude. “[The pilots] could not control the aircraft, though they repeatedly applied the safety procedure recommended by the manufacturer,” she said.  

Ethiopian authorities denied media reports that claimed a bird strike damaged one of the airplane’s angle-of-attack sensors. “Everything, including the AOA sensors, was functioning properly during takeoff. But a few minutes after takeoff the sensor began feeding erroneous data. We do not know what caused that,” Amdeye Ayalew Fenta, chief investigator of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau, told BJT sister publication Aviation International News

Two primary recommendations in the report direct Boeing to "review" how the 737 Max's flight-control system might have contributed to the accident and that global aviation authorities verify that the manufacturer adequately addresses malfunctions of the aircraft's flight-control system before they allow the resumption of operations.   

Boeing said it has yet to review the preliminary report. However, Ethiopian authorities told AIN that they sent the report to Boeing on April 1.   

Immediately after the April 4 press conference, Ethiopian Airlines issued a statement noting that the preliminary report clearly shows that the Ethiopian pilots commanding flight ET 302 followed the Boeing-recommended and FAA-approved procedures for coping with the most difficult emergency situation created on the airplane. “Despite their hard work and full compliance with the emergency procedures, it was very unfortunate that they could not recover the airplane from the persistent diving,” said the airline. “As the investigation continues with more detailed analysis, as usual we will continue with our full cooperation with the investigation team.” 

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Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam expressed satisfaction with the report’s confirmation of the pilots’ reaction to the emergency. “We are very proud of our pilots’ compliance [with] the emergency procedures and high level of professional performances in such extremely difficult situations,” he said. 

Eighteen experts from NTSB, the FAA, and Boeing participated in the accident investigation process. Experts from BEA and EASA also assisted the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau.

The Ethiopian aviation authorities said that they will release a final report within a year.  

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