Pilot of crashed plane reported ‘difficulties’

ADDIS ABABA • The pilot of a Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 that crashed six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa yesterday, had alerted controllers “he had difficulties” and wanted to turn back the plane carrying 157 people, the head of Ethiopian Airlines said.

The pilot “was given clearance” to return to Addis Ababa, CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told journalists in the Ethiopian capital when asked whether there had been a distress call.

People with passports from 32 countries and the United Nations (UN) were on the Nairobi-bound Boeing 737, Ethiopian Airlines said.

Kenya had the largest number of casualties with 32, followed by Canada with 18, Ethiopia with nine, then Italy, China, and the US with eight each, GebreMariam told reporters in Addis Ababa. Britain and France each had seven people on board, Egypt six, the Netherlands five and India four. Four were UN passport holders.

US aerospace giant Boeing Co said yesterday it was “deeply saddened” about the deaths of all 157 people and would provide technical assistance to find out why its aircraft crashed.

The brand-new Boeing 737 was delivered just last year.

“Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane,” the company said in a statement.

“We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team,” it said.

“A Boeing technical team is prepared to provide technical assistance at the request and under the direction of the US National Transportation Safety Board.” — AFP