Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 Crash. What We Know So Far
A truly disheartening event happened over the weekend. An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 has crashed shortly after taking off from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. The aircraft was en route to Nairobi, Kenya.
Considering this is the second fatal Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash in the span of 6 months, the aviation community is raising questions whether the MAX 8 variant is safe to operate. Although authorities are still investigating why the Lion Air 610 crashed, multiple people are suspecting that the MCAS of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is at fault for both fatal accidents.
Events on Flight ET302
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 registered ET-AVJ was late by 20 minutes to take off. Ethiopian Airlines schedules the flight ET302 to take off at 8:15 AM local time and arrive in Nairobi an hour and a half later, at 10:25 AM local time.
The aircraft took off at 08:38 AM. The 737 carried 149 passengers and 8 crew members on board. As soon as the flight ET302 took off, the captain of the aircraft reported an issue with the aircraft. Subsequently, the pilot requested permission from air traffic control to return to Addis Ababa.
As ATC allowed the aircraft to return, at 08:44 it completely disappeared from radars. It became clear that the Boeing 737 MAX 8 had crashed near the town of Bishoftu, around 60 kilometers from Addis Ababa.
Unfortunately, there were no survivors. All of the 157 people on board the aircraft have passed away. Many of the passengers on board the plane were traveling to the United Nations Environment Assembly session.
The captain and the first officer had 8000 and 200 flight hours respectively. The low hours of the first pilot have caused some concern as he would not be able to attain a commercial pilot’s license (CPL) in the United States because of the lack of hours. While previously you could attain a CPL with a low amount of flight hours, everything changed after the disaster of Flight 3407.
According to Reuters, witnesses reported that they saw white smoke and heard loud, rattling sounds as the Boeing 737 plunged into the ground.
One witness has noted that “It tried to climb but it failed and went down nose first. There was fire and white smoke which then turned black.”
As soon as the news broke out about the crash, a lot of top officials around the world have expressed their condolences to the affected families.
The Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority has started investigating the crash. The NTSB and FAA are going to help out the Ethiopian authorities to investigate the reason behind the Flight ET302 accident.
Boeing, the company that built the 737 MAX 8, has also released a statement that they will help out with the investigation. To illustrate, Boeing said that “A Boeing technical team will be traveling to the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the EAIB and NTSB.”
Good news is that investigators have already found both black boxes of the 737. The authorities investigating the crash are going to try to analyze the FDR and CVR data.
Nevertheless, there are no conclusive findings on why the aircraft has crashed.
However, a lot of people are suspecting the MCAS system to be at fault for the Flight ET302 crash.
As the Boeing 737 MAX 8 engines are in a different location than on a regular 737 and have a different shape, the handling of the jet has changed as well. The nose of the MAX 8 has a tendency of going up. Because of this, the aircraft is very prone to stalling in a different manner than usual.
So, to counteract the dangers of staling, Boeing has installed the MCAS system. But this is where the troubles begin.
After the Lion Air Flight 610 crash, Seattle Times has published an article that Boeing did not inform companies or pilots that they even installed the system. This means that pilots had no knowledge about MCAS and its processes.
So, what does the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System do?
In short, it pushes the aircraft’s nose down to reduce the chances of the 737 stalling. That is done by moving the horizontal stabilizer trim up by a couple of degrees.
However, the system triggers only under certain, non-normal flight conditions, which are: