Ethiopia crash black boxes arrive in France for analysis
HEJERE, Ethiopia – Flight data recorders from a doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight arrived in France for analysis Thursday as frustrated relatives of the 157 people killed stormed out of a meeting with airline officials in Addis Ababa.
Sunday’s crash was the second fatal flight for a Boeing 737 Max 8 in less than six months. More than 40 countries, including the U.S., have now grounded the planes or refused to let them into their airspace.
After holding out for several days, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order grounding the planes Wednesday, saying they had new satellite data and evidence that showed the movements of the Ethiopian Airlines plane were similar to those of Lion Air Flight 610.
That flight crashed into the Java Sea off Indonesia in October, killing 189 people.
Officials at Lion Air have said sensors on their plane produced erroneous information on its last four flights, triggering an automatic nose-down command that the pilots were unable to overcome on its final voyage.
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said its pilots had received special training on how to deal with that problem.
“In addition to the basic trainings given for 737 aircraft types, an additional training was given for the Max version,” Tewolde said. “After the Lion Air crash, questions were raised, so Boeing sent further instructions that it said pilots should know.”
Tewolde said he is confident the investigation will reveal that the crash is not related to the safety record of Ethiopian Airlines, widely seen as the best-managed in Africa.
Firm answers about what caused the crash could take months. The French air accident investigation authority, known by its French acronym BEA, said Thursday it will handle the analysis of the flight data recorders, often called black boxes, retrieved from the crash site.
The BEA has experience with global air crashes, and its expertise is often sought whenever an Airbus plane crashes because the manufacturer is based in France. A BEA official told The Associated Press that the recorders have already arrived in France but gave no time frame on how long the analysis could take.
In Addis Ababa, about 200 angry family members of crash victims left a briefing with Ethiopian Airlines officials, saying that the airline has not given them adequate information. Officials said they have opened a call-in center that is open 18 hours a day to respond to questions, but family members said they are not getting the answers they need. People from 35 countries died.
At the crash scene in Hejere, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Addis Ababa, growing numbers of family members arrived, some wailing or beating their chests as a bulldozer navigated piles of debris. Blue plastic sheeting covered the wreckage of the plane.
The 737 Max was supposed to boost Boeing’s fortunes for years to come, but the groundings will have a far-reaching financial impact, at least in the short term, said John Cox, a veteran pilot and CEO of Safety Operating Systems. Boeing shares have dropped nearly 11 percent since the crash, but are still up 17 percent overall in 2019.
In addition to the planes that have been grounded, there are more than 4,600 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes on backlog that have not yet been delivered to airlines. There are about 370 Max jets in circulation. / gsg
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