An Ethiopian Airlines plane—a brand-new Boeing 737 Max 8 with 157 people on board—crashed yesterday, March 10, roughly six minutes after takeoff, killing everyone on board. It’s the second incident of this kind that the new Boeing aircraft has been involved in recently.
According to The New York Times, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 left Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, bound for Nairobi, Kenya, “in good weather and with clear visibility.” After struggling to ascend at a stable speed, the pilot sent out a distress call and was approved to return to Bole International Airport. Takeoff was at 8:38 a.m. local time and the last signal transmission received came at 8:41 a.m. According to an update from The Times, a witness says the plane was “swerving and dipping” before descending.
Ethiopian Airlines group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said at a press conference, “It is too early to speculate the cause of the accident and further investigation will be carried out to find out the cause of the accident in collaboration with all stakeholders, including the aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and other international entities to maintain the international standard and information will be provided once the cause is identified. Ethiopian Airlines will provide all the necessary support to the families of the victims.”
The same Boeing model, operated by Lion Air, crashed in October, killing all 189 people onboard. The plane also lost contact with air traffic controllers minutes after takeoff, with pilots requesting to return to the airport, before plummeting. Both planes were new. According to The Times, “an investigation by Indonesian authorities determined that the Lion Air plane’s abrupt nose‐dive may have been caused by updated Boeing software that is meant to prevent a stall but that can send the plane into a fatal descent if the altitude and angle information being fed into the computer system is incorrect.”
In an update posted to Twitter by Ethiopian Airlines, the aircraft “underwent a rigorous first-check maintenance” on February 4. However, due to the incident, Ethiopian Airlines has grounded its fleet of five 737 Max 8s. Similarly, China and Indonesia ordered the grounding of all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. Other airlines—such as low-cost Indian airline SpiceJet and fellow Indian carrier Jet Airways, as well as South Korea’s Eastar Jet, Fiji Airways, South African airline Comair and Singapore Airlines subsidiary SilkAir—said they would not halt flights of the aircraft model. The BBC reports that Norwegian Air, Flydubai, TUI Group, GOL, Air Italy, S7, Southwest Airlines are also continuing their service with Boeing 838 Max 8s.