The first official report on the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 says the pilots “followed all expected procedures” set out by Boeing to keep the 737 Max aircraft from nose-diving “without managing to take back control”.
Ethiopian Airlines says the report, which could be released by the end of the week, “clearly showed” that the flight crew followed through with “Boeing recommended and FAA-approved emergency procedures”, but the aircraft crashed six minutes after take-off when the pilots could not regain control.
Investigators also said Ethiopian Airlines had put the pilots through all of the relevant and recommended training for the Boeing 737 Max.
Furthermore, investigators said Ethiopian Airlines had carried out a thorough safety check on the aircraft before it crashed, and they have not identified any damage to the sensors that could have contributed to the accident.
The findings echo initial conclusions from the investigation of a Lion Air crash in October 2018, which involved the same model of aircraft. Data collected from the aeroplane’s flight recorders showed the nose of the plane had been forced down more than 20 times before it plunged into the Java Sea.
While the investigation is ongoing, the report sets out two safety recommendations – that Boeing reviews the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) in relation to “flight controllability” and that aviation authorities verify that this review “has been adequately addressed” before it is released to airlines.
The global fleet of Boeing 737 Max aircraft has been grounded since a few days after the Ethiopian Airlines crash, causing some airlines to cancel flights.
Boeing was hoping to have a software update for the 737 Max ready to hand over to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for approval by the end of March, but the FAA said earlier this week that “additional work” was needed to “ensure that Boeing has identified and appropriately addressed all pertinent issues”.
The system uses a set of sensors to determine if the “angle of attack” for take-off is too high. If it detects too extreme an angle, the system automatically forces the nose of the aircraft down to keep it from stalling.
An additional warning system that would alert pilots of contradictory readings from the sensors so they could override the MCAS has previously been a paid-for option, but Boeing has said all 737 Max aircraft would now be fitted with the warning system as standard.
Commenting on the official report, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said: “All of us at Ethiopian Airlines are still going through deep mourning for the loss of our loved ones and we would like to express our deep sympathy and condolences for the families, relatives and friends of the victims.
“Meanwhile, we are very proud of our pilots’ compliances to follow the emergency procedures and high level of professional performances in such extremely difficult situations. We are also very proud of our global standard Pilot Training Center and the Ethiopian Airlines Aviation Academy, which is one of the largest and most modern in the world equipped with the state-of-the-art and latest training technologies.”