PARIS/ADDIS ABABA: Investigators in France on Friday examined the black boxes of a Boeing 737 MAX that crashed in Ethiopia as a spooked global airline industry waited to see if the cause was similar to a disaster in Indonesia months before.
Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed soon after take-off from Addis Ababa last weekend, killing 157 people, in the second such calamity involving Boeing’s flagship new model after a jet came down off Indonesia in October with 189 people on board.
Parallels between the twin disasters have frightened passengers worldwide and wiped more than $26 billion off Boeing’s share price. According to two sources, investigators found a piece of a stabiliser in the wreckage of the Ethiopian jet set in an unusual position similar to that of the Lion Air plane in Indonesia. The stabiliser on the tail section pitches the nose up and down. The FAA and Boeing declined to comment.
Pilots worldwide were waiting anxiously for the outcome of the investigation, Paul Gichinga, former head of the Kenya Airline Pilots Association, told Reuters.
“Looking at the crash site photos, the aircraft appears to have nose-dived ... It looks that they were not in control of the aircraft at impact,” he said. “The pilot must have gotten some sort of indication that maybe the airspeed was unreliable or something and decided, instead of climbing and going to sort out the problem up there, the best thing was to return to have it sorted.”
France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) has possession of the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, though Ethiopia is formally leading the investigation and US experts are in Paris and Addis Ababa too. First conclusions could take several days.
In Ethiopia, grieving relatives have been visiting the charred and debris-strewn field where the jet came down to pay last respects. Only fragments remain, meaning it may take weeks or months to identify all the victims who came from 35 nations.