Investigators recover data recorders from Ethiopian plane crash site

Published: March 11, 2019 21:12:17 | Updated: March 14, 2019 12:45:13


Investigators have found the flight data recorders from an Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed on Sunday, according to a BBC report.

The devices recovered at the crash site were the Boeing 737 Max 8's cockpit voice recorder and digital flight data recorder.

The plane was en route from Addis Ababa to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, when it crashed six minutes after take-off, killing all 157 people on board.

Several airlines have grounded the Boeing model following the disaster.

The months-old aircraft came down near the town of Bishoftu, 60km (37 miles) south-east of the capital at 08:44 local time (05:44 GMT).

There were more than 30 nationalities on board the flight, including Kenyans, Ethiopians, Canadians and Britons.

Do we know how it happened?

The cause of the disaster is not yet clear. However, the pilot had reported difficulties and had asked to return to Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Airlines said.

"At this stage, we can't rule out anything," CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said. "We can't also attribute the cause to anything because we'll have to comply with the international regulation to wait for the investigation."

Visibility was said to be good but air traffic monitor Flightradar24 reported that the plane's "vertical speed was unstable after take-off".

The pilot was named as Senior Capt Yared Getachew who Ethiopian Airlines said had a "commendable performance" with more than 8,000 hours in the air.

What do we know about the plane?

The 737 Max 8 aircraft has only been in commercial use since 2017.

The plane that crashed was among six of 30 that Ethiopian Airlines had ordered as part of its expansion. It underwent a "rigorous first check maintenance" on February 4, the airline said in a statement.

Boeing said it was "deeply saddened" by the crash and was sending a team to provide technical assistance.

It was the second crash in five months involving a 737 Max 8, and comparisons are being drawn with a Lion Air accident in Indonesia last October that killed 189 people.

Following the Lion Air crash, investigators said the pilots had appeared to struggle with an automated system designed to keep the plane from stalling, a new feature of the jet.

The anti-stall system repeatedly forced the plane's nose down, despite efforts by pilots to correct this, preliminary findings suggested. The Lion Air plane was also new and the accident happened soon after take-off.

"It's highly suspicious," Mary Schiavo, former Inspector General of the US Transportation Department, told CNN. "Here we have a brand-new aircraft that's gone down twice in a year. That rings alarm bells in the aviation industry, because that just doesn't happen."

After last October's crash, Boeing sent an emergency notice to airlines warning them of a problem with the anti-stall system.

Boeing is expected to release a software patch to the system to deal with the issue, Reuters reported.

It is not yet clear whether the anti-stall system was the cause of Sunday's crash. Aviation experts say other technical issues or human error cannot be discounted.

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