Boeing 737 MAX crisis: Ethiopian Airlines Crash (Part II)
If you have missed the first part of the timeline, check it out here:
It seemed like things have calmed down under the skies in Renton, as orders and deliveries continued as usual. Boeing’s commercial aircraft division saw an increase in deliveries and revenues in Q4 of 2018, compared to Q4 of 2017. Airlines were still keen to order the 737 MAX – from November 2018 until March 2019 carriers placed orders for 248 the aircraft.
Boeing even achieved its first 737 MAX delivery from the Completion and Delivery Center in Zhoushan, China, “marking a new era in Boeing's partnership with the Chinese aviation industry”.
However, that was just the calm before the storm – a storm that pours to this day.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 Crashes
On 8:38 AM local time, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX took off for a regularly scheduled flight between Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD) to Nairobi, Kenya (NBO). The flight was to last an hour and a half.
Six minutes later, at 08:44 AM, Air Traffic Control lost contact with ET302. The last known location of the aircraft was recorded near Bishoftu, around 60 kilometers from Addis Ababa.
Three hours after the airliner crashed, Ethiopian Airlines revealed that none of the 157 people onboard have survived the accident.
The following day Ethiopian Airlines t grounded all of its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. On the same day, the Civil Aviation Authority of China ordered airlines to park their Boeing 737 MAX family jets on the ground. Indonesia’s Ministry of Transportation followed suit and Lion Air together with Garuda Indonesia grounded the troubled aircraft.
However, the FAA had a different opinion – on the same day that Ethiopian Airlines, CAAC and Indonesian MOT grounded the MAX, the U.S. authority issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification. While other authorities foresaw the similarities between the two accidents, the FAA was shy to make a decision: “[...]this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions”.
Eventually, the FAA caved in on March 13, 2019. The American authority ordered every American airline to stop operating the MAX and prohibited the 737 MAX from entering the U.S. airspace on commercial flights. The U.S. was one of the last countries to ground the Renton-built airliner.
But a question still lingers: if Boeing issued an Operations Manual Bulletin (OMB) how to counteract the automatic nose-down movements, why did the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX crash?
If you could point out the maintenance on the Lion Air MAX as an issue, Ethiopian’s maintenance history was squeaky clean.
Except it encountered four flight control problems back in December 2018. Erratic altitude, vertical speed, uncommanded rolling to the right occurred during four different occasions in the span of seven days.
The issues did not reoccur.
But between the time that ET302 crashed and the Ethiopian Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) released the preliminary report, Ethiopian Airlines had to deny too many accusations regarding its standard of operations.
Firstly, the public questioned the total flight time of the First Officer onboard the flight, which equates to a total of 350 hours. However, Ethiopian Airlines rebuffed the claims that the First Officer did not have enough hours:
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