Ethiopia released its’ preliminary findings from its investigation into last month’s fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which killed all 157 crew and passengers on board. Ethiopia’s transport minister said the pilots of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet followed normal procedures but were unable to overcome a flaw in the plane’s software that automatically pushed the plane’s nose down. The preliminary report found similarities in the technical failures experienced by pilots of October’s Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610, which also crashed just minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board. The report, which could change in the coming months when it’s completed, doesn’t rule out the potential for pilot error in the Ethiopian crash.
The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded all 737 MAX aircraft while Boeing works on fixes to the planes’ software. Boeing said this week that it needed more time to finish a software update and training, which will be necessary before the planes can fly again. Lawmakers and regulators are scrutinizing Boeing and the process for certifying the 737 Max. The families of passengers and crew killed in the two crashes have hired lawyers to pursue claims against Boeing. Boeing is working on an additional software fix for another problem which is related to aircraft flaps and other flight control hardware. These issues are reportedly classified as critical to flight safety.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg released a video apology “We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 MAX accidents. … From the days immediately following the Lion Air accident, we’ve had teams of our top engineers and technical experts working tirelessly, in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and our customers, to finalize and implement a software update that will ensure accidents like that of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 never happen again.”
Boeing dismissed concerns about a powerful new anti-stall system on the 737 Max for months, insisting that pilots could deal with any problems by following a checklist of emergency procedures. The preliminary findings from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash have raised speculation of the sufficiency of those instructions. The findings show that the pilots on the Ethiopian Airlines flight initially followed the prescribed procedures he was trained on after the anti-stall system malfunctioned. They shut off the electricity that allows the automated software to push the plane’s nose down and took manual control of the jet. They then tried to right the plane, with the captain telling his co-pilot three times to “pull up.”
Unfortunately, they could not regain control and about four minutes after the system initially activated, the plane hit the ground at high speed, killing all 157 people on board. The report’s findings are not yet final but the initial evidence suggests that Boeing’s procedures may not have worked well when a plane was flying at a high speed. The system, according to the investigators’ findings, appears to have forced the nose of the plane down several times in less than three minutes leaving pilots with a very short window to react before going into an irrecoverable nose dive.