Ethiopian Airlines: Boeing 737 crashes on way to Kenya

Ethiopian Airlines: Boeing 737 crashes on way to Kenya

(BBC News) — An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 passenger jet has crashed on a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi in Kenya.

The flight is believed to have had 149 passengers and eight crew members on board, the airline says.

A spokesman said the crash happened at 08.44 local time on Sunday, shortly after take-off from the Ethiopian capital.

First word of the crash came when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed expressed his “deepest condolences” on Twitter.

In a statement, the airline said that search and rescue operations were under way near the crash site around the town of Bishoftu, which is 60km (37 miles) south-east of the capital.

It did not provide details on the number of casualties. It is not clear what caused the crash.

“Ethiopian Airlines staff will be sent to the accident scene and will do everything possible to assist the emergency services,” the statement added.

Boeing, the company that built the aeroplane, said in a tweet that it was “closely monitoring the situation”.

Its 737 Max-8 aircraft is relatively new to the skies, having been launched in 2016. It was added to the Ethiopian Airlines fleet late last year.

Another plane of the same model was involved in a crash five months ago, when a Lion Air flight crashed into the sea near Indonesia with nearly 190 people on board.

What do we know about the airline’s safety record?

Ethiopian Airlines flies to many destinations in Africa, making it a popular carrier in a continent where many airlines fly only from their home country to destinations outside Africa.

It has a good reputation for safety, although in 2010 one of the company’s aeroplanes crashed in the Mediterranean Sea shortly after leaving Beirut.

The incident killed 90 people on board.

The airline’s highest fatalities to date came in a November 1996 crash during a hijacking on a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi.

One of the aeroplane’s engines stopped when the fuel ran out and although pilots attempted an emergency water landing, they hit a coral reef in the Indian Ocean and 123 of the 175 people on board were killed.

About Boeing 737, a Similar Plane Crash

Boeing issues warning on potential instrument malfunction after Indonesia crash

By Timothy McLaughlin, Ashley Halsey III and Stanley Widianto November 8, 2018

Less than a week before Parliament’s next vote on a deal for Britain to exit the European Union, British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about what’s at stake. (Reuters)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (The Washington Post) — Airplane manufacturer Boeing on Wednesday issued a bulletin to airlines worldwide warning of erroneous readings from flight-control software on its planes, after a Lion Air jetliner crashed into the sea soon after takeoff, killing the 189 people on board.

Boeing, which is assisting in an investigation into what went wrong in the Oct. 29 crash of one of its new 737 Max 8 jets, said it issued the bulletin as “part of its usual process.”

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday issued an emergency notice to all operators of Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 planes. It warned airlines that erroneous sensor inputs like the one that came into play in Indonesia “could cause the flight crew to have difficulty controlling the airplane,” leading to “possible impact with terrain.”

Boeing’s bulletin was the first indication that an error with the aircraft’s systems may have caused problems for the Lion Air flight, which took off from Jakarta. At takeoff, the plane’s altitude fluctuated dramatically, and the plane increased in speed before nose-diving into the Java Sea 13 minutes later.

Indonesian investigators have recovered the plane’s flight data recorder, which showed that the plane’s airspeed indicator malfunctioned on its last four flights.

“It’s a stunning simple but deadly error,” said Mary Schiavo, an aviation lawyer and former inspector general of the U.S. Transportation Department. “I can’t even recall the number of accidents I’ve worked where the accident happened the first flight after maintenance. A reported problem, they supposedly fixed it, and then it goes down.”

Boeing’s bulletin said, “The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee has indicated that Lion Air Flight 610 experienced erroneous input from one of its AOA (Angle of Attack) sensors.” A misreading in the sensor can cause a plane to dive suddenly.

The bulletin provided instructions to flight crews on what they can to do correct the sensor’s “failure,” which it said can happen when the flight is being operated in manual.

Indonesian investigators said Wednesday that an AOA sensor on the jet was replaced the day before the doomed flight, on Oct. 28, when a pilot flying the same aircraft on a different route, from Bali to Jakarta, reported problems with it. The pilot on the crashed Lion Air flight had asked shortly after takeoff to return to the airport in Jakarta but lost contact with air traffic controllers afterward.

The Angle of Attack sensor, shown to reporters at a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday, was manufactured by Minnesota-based Rosemount Aerospace Inc. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Schiavo said it’s clear from flight-tracking data that the pilots fought to keep the plane up.

“The pilots had a battle on their hands for a few minutes,” she said. “They couldn’t get above 5,000 feet at a time when they should have been over [10,000]. Something happened three to four minutes into the flight. They called to turn back to the airport, but they didn’t call mayday, which means they didn’t have time. They were fighting something.”

In Jakarta, investigators showed reporters the AOA sensor that was removed from the aircraft. The small black cylinder contains a sensor that controls the angle between the wing and the air it is moving through. If the angle is too high as a plane climbs, that would cause a stall.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 jets are among the manufacturer’s newest models and have been snapped up by airliners in booming aviation markets, including Indonesia and India. More than 200 are in service across the world, billed as the most advanced of the popular 737 jets — and capable of flying more than twice as far than the plane that debuted in 1967.

Indonesian authorities would provide Boeing with information from the pilot who flew with the problematic sensor so it could be shared with other airlines , said Nurcahyo Utomo, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Committee.

Ony Suryo Wibowo, another investigator, said that it was too early to say what caused the crash. The full investigation could take a year.

The two Indonesian airlines that fly the Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, national carrier Garuda and Lion Air, both declined to comment on the bulletin. Indonesian officials say that all 11 such aircraft have been tested and declared safe to fly.

The 787 Max 8 is the second Boeing aircraft to experience serious technical problems soon after its introduction, leading some analysts to question whether Boeing may have overlooked quality concerns as it strives to meet rising global demand. Boeing has been working to increase production capacity at the Renton, Wash., factory where 737s are assembled.

The FAA grounded Boeing’s entire 787 fleet in 2013 after lithium-ion batteries overheated and caught fire. The National Transportation Safety Board later faulted Boeing as well as its battery supplier, GS Yuasa, for its approach to safety and quality control.

The Seattle Times reported in August that Boeing’s Renton factory has struggled to meet its production targets amid late deliveries from companies manufacturing its components. The company has sought to increase its production from 47 jets per month to 52 per month.

On Wednesday, Indonesian officials said the doomed flight would be re-created at Boeing facilities in Seattle to see what role the sensor may have played.

Experts have been puzzled about what could have caused the jet to go down in clear skies, unlike other major airplane disasters in which weather or older jets were major factors. The impact of the crash caused the wreckage to scatter, making it difficult to find and identify the victims. As of Thursday afternoon local time, 51 of the 189 people on board had been identified.

The data from the flight recorder and Boeing’s statement have provided the first clues, but rescuers are still searching for the device that records voices in the plane’s cockpit. That recorder is expected to provide a clearer picture to investigators of the Lion Air flight’s final moments.

“Boeing has now introduced two aircraft that have had significant problems,” said Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with the consultancy Atmosphere Research Group. “What will have to be found is, is Boeing pushing itself too hard? Are the workers moving too fast to meet production deadlines?”

Still, Teal Group aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia said the commercial passengers should not be nervous about getting on a 737 Max 8.

“We’re going to learn from this just like we learned from the A330,” he said, referring to a 2009 incident in which an Airbus A330 crashed off the coast of Brazil with 228 people on board due to electronics failures. “The big picture is the system keeps getting safer and safer, and it’s still the safest form of transportation ever designed by humans,” he said.

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