Ethiopia Plane Crash Kills 157 People

A plane crash in Ethiopia on March 10, 2019, killed everyone on board and has renewed concerns about the Boeing 737 Max 8, with airlines around the world grounding the aircraft. The Ethiopia plane crash is the second tragedy involving the Max 8 aircraft in fewer than six months, following the crash of Lion Air Flight JT 610 on Oct. 29, 2018. Investigators are looking into what caused the most recent crash and will be aided by the black boxes that have been recovered. For now, families are left to mourn the loss of their loved ones as safety experts ask how the Boeing Max 8 aircraft is still in use.

 Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crashed Minutes After Takeoff 

Minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in good weather, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed, killing all 157 people on board. The plane was headed for Nairobi, Kenya, but reportedly struggled to gain altitude at a consistent speed. Flight 302 is a two-hour shuttle that takes people between two busy cities in East Africa and often carries many international passengers.

According to information from FlightRadar24, the aircraft's vertical speed fluctuated immediately following takeoff, moving from 1,472 feet per minute per hour to minus 1,920, not expected when a flight is taking off.

Only six minutes after takeoff, Flight 302 crashed near the town of Bishoftu.

Onboard the plane were people from more than 30 countries, including the US, Canada, China, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Britain. Many of the passengers were employed by the UN or its agencies, or were delegates traveling to Nairobi for a UN environment assembly. Eight of the victims were from the US.

Lion Air Crash Similar to Ethiopian Airlines Tragedy 

Similarities between the Oct. 2018 Lion Air crash in Indonesia and the Ethiopian Airlines crash have raised concerns from safety experts that there are serious issues with the Boeing 737 Max 8. Both planes crashed within 15 minutes of takeoff and had difficulty gaining altitude. In both tragedies, the aircraft appeared to get some altitude then descend repeatedly before they ultimately crashed. Both plane crashes occurred in relatively clear weather.

An investigation into the Ethiopian Airlines crash is underway. A preliminary report into the Lion Air catastrophe was released and indicated the Max 8 involved in that crash experienced several maintenance issues between Oct. 26 and Oct. 29. One issue was an angle of attack sensor that sent inaccurate readings, causing the plane's system to think it needed to push the nose down to prevent a stall. Pilots attempted to push the nose back up but were unable to. The preliminary report did not assign blame for the Lion Air crash, and investigators are still looking into that crash.

Max 8 Planes Grounded Around the World 

Safety experts have expressed concerns that Boeing failed to adequately warn pilots about software changes in the Max 8, which may have resulted in the Lion Air pilots not understanding what was going wrong as the plane repeatedly pushed its nose down. With two crashes of Max 8 aircraft in less than six months some organizations are grounding the planes until investigations are complete.

More than 30 airlines have said they will not use the Max 8 for now, with the EU suspending all flights involving the aircraft into, out of or through its airspace. The US has so far not suspended use of the planes, although the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines' flight attendants, has asked the airline's CEO to consider grounding the planes pending an investigation.
When the Max 8 was introduced, the FAA and Boeing decided that pilots did not need to be warned about a change to the plane's flight control system—called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS—so pilots were not retrained to use that new system. Boeing has blamed the pilots for the Lion Air crash, but pilots say they should have been made aware of any new system introduced on a plane.

"Any time a new system is introduced into an airplane, [pilots] are the people responsible for that airplane," John Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association told The New York Times. "We felt and we feel that we needed to know about [MCAS], and there's just no other way to say it."

NTSB Investigating Flight #302 Crash 

Ethiopian authorities are investigating the crash, with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also sending teams to assist. A preliminary report could be released within weeks of the crash but a full investigation typically takes a year or more.