Ethiopia to send black boxes to Europe as questions mount over crash

ADDIS ABABA • Ethiopia said yesterday it would send the black boxes from last weekend’s deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash to Europe for analysis as urgency mounted for answers amid safety concerns for the Boeing 737 Max 8.

The second deadly crash involving the plane type in less than six months prompted governments worldwide to ban the American aerospace giant’s bestselling jet from their airspace. The move has heaped pressure on Boeing Co to provide proof the workhorse is safe.

In Ethiopia, families of victims were taken to the remote site yesterday where the plane smashed into a field with 157 passengers and crew from 35 countries, leaving a deep black crater and tiny scraps of debris.

Ethiopian Airlines spokesman Asrat Begashaw told AFP the company would decide by today which country would examine the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder recovered from ill-fated flight ET 302.

“We are going to send it to Europe, but the country is not specified yet,” said Asrat. Another airline spokesman, Biniyam Demssie, said Ethiopia did not have the equipment to read the black box data, which it is hoped will provide crucial information about what happened.

The Ethiopian Airlines’ 737 Max 8 was less than four months old when it went down six minutes into a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi on Sunday, disintegrating on impact.

Asrat said families of the victims from Kenya, China, America and Canada, as well as diplomatic staff from embassies, were at the crash site. “Many of them, families and friends, they arrived, and they are on site.”

Experts have pointed out similarities to the crash of an Indonesian Lion Air jet last October, killing 189 passengers and crew. Both planes reportedly experienced erratic steep climbs and descents as well as fluctuating airspeeds before crashing shortly after takeoff.

Questions have honed in on an automated anti-stalling system introduced on the 737 Max 8, designed to automatically point the nose of the plane downward if it is in danger of stalling.

According to the flight data recorder, the pilots of Lion Air Flight 610 struggled to control the aircraft as the automated MCAS system repeatedly pushed the plane’s nose down following takeoff. The pilots of the Ethiopian Airlines plane reported similar difficulties before their aircraft plunged into the ground.

Demssie told AFP the pilots of the doomed flight had been trained. For “every new technology, we provide training at Ethiopian Airlines”. — AFP