Investigation of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 Crash

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302

An international tragedy happened on 10 March 2019, when a scheduled flight 302 of Ethiopian Airlines crashed which was operated by Boeing 737 MAX 8. The crashed happened shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa, a city of Ethiopia. The aircraft took off from the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport at 08:38 local time (05:38). The crashed happened six minutes from taking off and crashed near a town called Bishoftu. All the 157 passengers in the plane died in the crash.  There were 149 passengers with 8 aircraft crew on board. The flight had a problem from the start. The pilot reached the ‘pilot control’ one minute from the flight but decided to carry on with it. The pilot had requested to return back to the Addis Ababa international airport three minutes into the flight. The air traffic controllers were diverting the approaching flights to make room for the Flight 302. As they were making room for the returning flight, it disappeared from the radar and crashed at 08:44 after reaching an altitude of 9,000 feet MSL. This crash is not only the deadliest crash of Ethiopian Airlines but it is also the deadliest one that happened in the country.

Previous Disaster

This was not the first time the Boeing 737 MAX 8 had crashed. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft was introduced in 2017 to the world. The first crashed involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8 happened on 29 October 2018. It was the Lion Air Flight 610. This flight was operated by the Indonesian Airline called Lion Air. This flight was a scheduled domestic flight. The crash happened 12 minutes after the flight took off. There were 189 people in the aircraft and all had died when the aircraft crashed into the Java Sea. The flight was scheduled to go to from Soekarno Hatta International Airport to Depati Amir Airport in Pangkal Pinang. The debris of the crash was spread around a 280-kilometer wide area. The crash was so horrendous that the first victim was identified two days later. There were 181 passengers and eight flight crew that lost their lives in the crash.

Investigation of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302

After the crash, an investigation was immediately called in action. The Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) were the main investigators of this crash. Other authorities also participated in the investigation. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also assisted in the investigation whereas the manufacturers of the crashed plane, Boeing also offered their part in the investigation. Essential flight equipment, the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder were recovered on 11 March from the site of the crash which helped carry the investigation forward. The Ethiopian Airlines Officials decided to send the information to the European safety experts despite the U.S. authorities urging to send them the data. On 17 March, the investigation’s initial statements started coming forward. The transport minister of Ethiopia said that there was a similarity between this crash and the Lion Air Flight 610 clash. The FAA also gave strong notions that there was a similarity between the two Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashes. Ethiopian Airlines said that the crash could have happened due to Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). On 4 April, the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority released a brief statement of the preliminary report on their Facebook page. The preliminary report didn’t directly states the MCASs but stated the stabilizer motion and the stabilizer trim cutout switches. The report also finds that the pilot crew followed all the protocols provided by the manufacturers. Dagmawit Moges, Transport Minister of Ethiopia said that the pilot crew performed their duties exceptionally but couldn’t control the aircraft.

Boeing Views

On March 10, Boeing issued a statement on their website offering their sympathies to the people who lost their loved ones in the crash. They also said that a team will travel to the site of the crash under the direction of Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. Two days after the crash had happened, Boeing had again released a statement on the crash stating that it is their number one priority to provide safety to the people. They also showed their confidence in the aircraft despite the crash. They also said that they respect the decision of the various authorities that have made and will make decisions on the aircraft. They also said that the U.S. FAA is not sanctioning any decisions at the moment. Boeing released another statement on their website stating that after meeting with various bodies and the customers, they have decided to ground all the 737 MAX aircraft. The CEO of Boeing also expressed his sympathies for the family and friends of the departed ones. Following the statement of Transport Minister of Ethiopia, CEO Dennis Muilenburg again expresses his sympathies and addressed the MCAS concerns. Dennis released a letter to all the concerned people on March 18. On 26 March Boeing responds to Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Ato Tewolde GebreMariam and the aviation industry. On 4 April, after the preliminary report was released by the Ethiopian authorities, Boeing ensured that they will improve on MCAS and update the system for providing safety to the people.

Governments’ Views

Following the crash of the Boeing 737 Max 8, there were strong voices urging the governments to ground the aircraft. Many countries took notice of the incident and grounded the operation. On March 11, China had grounded all the 96 aircrafts immediately. Mongolia and Indonesia had grounded the aircrafts of this model temporarily. On March 12, Singapore temporarily grounded the airplane. India, Turkey, South Korea and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had grounded the 737 MAX 8 flights. United States FAA expressed their confidence and trust on Boeing while Canada’s minister of Transport Marc Garneau said that it would be a premature decision to ground the Boeing planes. On March 13, Canada and United States grounded the aircrafts due to the emergence of new information while Panama also joined them in grounding the Max 8 flights.

Lifting of the Sanctions?

The final report of the crash has not been made. Boeing has promised and assured people that they are trying their best to improve the safety features of their planes. Countries are not ready to lift the grounding restrictions till yet. They are adamant that they will carry out a safety check before allowing Boeing to fly the 737 MAX 8. There are also calls that individual countries will be doing their own safety check instead of the U.S. FAA safety certificates.

Lawsuits

Boeing has faced many lawsuits after the second plane crashing. A federal lawsuit was filed in a Chicago Court on behalf of the deceased Jackson Musoni. On 20 March, two lawsuits were filed against the company for the Lion Air crash by the 20 members of the lost one’s families. The lawsuits are continuing to file up not only against Boeing but also Ethiopian Airlines as well.

Media Coverage

The international media has been covering the crash and the litigation aspects as well. The overall perception is that the manufacturers of the aircraft, Boeing, will try two options. One is that they will try to put the majority of the blame on Ethiopian Airlines and make them a scapegoat for the crash. The other option that they will try to indulge in is by giving the families of the deceased ‘Humanitarian Payment’ or in simple words try to settle with the families to try to save the enormous money that they can lose if the families win the lawsuits against them. The image of the company is tarnished and the company is facing losses worth in billions due to the Aviation Authorities grounding their aircrafts.

Past Cases

There have been many lawsuits filed in the past against airliners and aviation authorities by the family members of the deceased. These lawsuits are normally settled outside of court to help prevent the image of the company going bad. One of the most historic lawsuit settlement was won by the family of Eddie Andreini. They filed a case against the United States Air Force and settled for $1.4 million for the death of the 77-year old man.

By Steve Hill

Photo Wikipedia

Staff writer for the Chicago Morning Star

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