Casey McShea, Staff Writer |
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed on the morning of Sunday, March 10, 2019, six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa on its way to Nairobi, Kenya, taking 157 lives of people from 35 different countries. All passengers were killed in this tragic accident; many of them were members of the United Nations. While the cause of the crash is unknown, questions about the aircraft’s safety were raised after it was revealed that the crash showed similarities to another that took place a few months earlier. Both jets that crashed were of the same model; however, the earlier crash was operated by Lion Air in Indonesia.
Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea in Indonesia on Oct. 29, 2018 after taking off from Jakarta. All 189 people on board died. The plane was scheduled to make a one-hour journey to Pangkal Pinang on the island of Bangka.
The Boeing 737 Max 8 was a new model of airplane unveiled about two years ago. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there are approximately 350 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircrafts in operation worldwide, in total, belonging to 54 operators. Both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines aircrafts were equipped with the same automated flight software called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). With this system, the nose of the plane is automatically lowered when it receives information from its external angle of attack (AOA) sensors that the aircraft is flying too slowly or steeply and is at risk of failing. If this system malfunctions and pilots don’t react properly, the plane can be automatically pushed into a catastrophic nose dive.
The pilot of Flight 302 reported “flight-control problems” to air traffic control shortly after takeoff, which suggested that the cockpit crew was facing difficulties with the mechanical instruments used to handle and control the aircraft, the computerized systems that fly it, or both. The control tower, according to airline spokesman Asrat Begashaw, had confirmed the crew’s request to return to the airport before the plane crashed just three minutes later. The Lion Air Max 8 crew reportedly had had similar control issues before Flight 620 crashed, suggesting the problem may have been within the plane company’s software.
President Trump said that the United States would continue to bar the jet “until further notice.” This decision came after over 50 countries around the globe made the same announcement. Airline manufacturer Boeing also explained that they were recommending the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 737 Max 8 aircrafts. Boeing’s statement emphasized that they continue to have “full confidence in the safety” of the jets, but they are supporting this step out of “an abundance of caution.” Boeing said the company is “doing everything [they] can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”
The Ethiopian Accident Investigation Bureau is expected to release a preliminary report within 30 days.