There were “clear similarities” between the fate of crashed Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302 and that of Lion Air flight JT 610, Ethiopia’s transport minister has revealed.
Dagmawit Moges, the BBC reports, said flight data from the aircraft’s black box showed the aircraft’s altitude fluctuated sharply shortly after take off, similar to that of the Lion Air flight.
Lion Air flight JT 610 crashed into the Java Sea shortly after taking off from Indonesian capital Jakarta in October last year. All 189 people on board were killed.
Five months later, Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302 crashed minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi. Again, all 157 people on board were killed.
Both flights were operated by Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. Boeing has since grounded its entire fleet of 737 MAX aircraft on safety grounds.
Moges said a preliminary report into the Ethiopian Airlines crash would be released in the next month.
"Clear similarities were noted between Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610, which would be the subject of further study during the investigation," she said.
Data from the Lion Air flight recorder suggested a new anti-stall system forced the aircraft’s nose down, which the pilots were unable to override.
The Ethiopian Airlines crash was the second disaster involving a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft less than two years after the aircraft entered service in May 2017.
It is the latest version of Boeing’s popular 737 range, capable of up to 15% improvements in fuel efficiency while able to operate routes up to about 7,000km.
When the aircraft was grounded last week, Boeing is understood to have delivered 371 of its 737 MAX aircraft with nearly 5,000 more on order. It maintains the aircraft is safe.
In Europe, Tui operated 15 737 MAX, Norwegian 18 and Icelandair three. All three airlines have pledged to continue operations with minimal disruption using alternative aircraft.
Norwegian boss Bjorn Kjos says the airline will pursue Boeing for the cost of any disruption to the airline’s operations arising from the 737 MAX being grounded.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), however, held out longer than other nations, with more than 100 737 MAX aircraft in service in the US and Canada.
It said new satellite data had informed its and Boeing’s decision to ground the 737 MAX rather than pressure brought on by other nations proactively taking the aircraft out of service.
Boeing has been working on a software update since the Lion Air crash. However, this could take a significant amount of time to implement once Boeing is finished with it, which is likely to see the 737 MAX grounded until May at the earliest.
Boeing chairman, president and chief executive Dennis Muilenburg addressed the comments made by Moges on Sunday (March 17).
“Boeing continues to support the investigation, and is working with the authorities to evaluate new information as it becomes available,” he said.
“Safety is our highest priority as we design, build and support our airplanes. As part of our standard practice following any accident, we examine our aircraft design and operation, and when appropriate, institute product updates to further improve safety.
“While investigators continue to work to establish definitive conclusions, Boeing is finalising development of a previously announced software update and pilot training revision that will address the MCAS [Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System] flight control law’s behaviour in response to erroneous sensor inputs.
“We also continue to provide technical assistance at the request of and under the direction of the National Transportation Safety Board, the US accredited representative working with Ethiopian investigators.”