Boeing 737 Max 8 black boxes from Ethiopian Airlines flight crash sent to France for examination
By John Bacon, USA TODAY, March 14, 2019
The flight data and cockpit voice recorders from doomed Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 arrived in Paris on Thursday where French aviation authorities were tasked with probing the black boxes for clues to the tragedy.
France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety said there was no immediate information on the condition of the recorders. Preliminary information could take several days to extract, an agency spokesman told Reuters.
Sunday’s crash, which killed all 157 aboard, was the second crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 in five months. In October, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in the Java Sea 12 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia. All 189 people aboard perished.
On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration said the flight path data of two airliners in the moments prior to the crashes showed similarities.
The FAA issued an emergency order temporarily grounding the planes in the United States, the last nation where they were flown to do so. Boeing then formally all the almost 400 planes around the world.
Daniel Elwell, acting head of the FAA, said the data linked the behavior and flight path of the Ethiopian Airline jet to data from the crash of a Lion Air jet in October.
“Evidence we found on the ground made it even more likely that the flight path was very close to Lion Air’s,” Elwell said Wednesday. Before the FAA announcement, President Donald Trump issued an emergency order halting flights of the MAX 8 and MAX 9.
Elwell also dismissed claims that the recent partial shutdown of the U.S. government had delayed software upgrades for Max 8 planes developed after the Lion Air disaster. Those upgrades are scheduled for completion by month’s end, Elwell said.
The United States had been under pressure to join nations worldwide in grounding the planes after concerns mounted that the Ethiopian crash was similar to one in October. Wednesday, Canada joined the list of countries that halted the flights.
Boeing said it supported the move.
“Boeing has determined – out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety – to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of all 371 MAX aircraft,” Boeing said in a statement.
The MAX fleet began flying two years ago and includes 74 domestic planes. Airlines have ordered more than 4,500 of the jetliners, the newest version of the 737 and best-selling airliner ever.
Garuda, the national airline of Indonesia, is considering canceling its order for 20 Boeing 737 MAX planes, CEO Ari Askhara said Thursday.
At least one airline wants compensation from Boeing for the cost of parking the jets. Norwegian Air Shuttles spokeswoman Tonje Naess said the carrier, which flies 18 of the planes, should not face “any financial burden for a brand new aircraft that will not to be used.” It was not immediately clear what those costs might be or what Boeing might be pressed to pay.
Records show that federal aviation authorities received at least 11 reports concerning perceived safety problems with the aircraft. Two pilots reported their planes unexpectedly pitched nose down after they engaged autopilot following departure. Another pilot reported a “temporary level off” triggered by the aircraft automation.
The pilot of a flight in November 2018 called part of the aircraft’s flight manual “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient.”
In the USA, Southwest and American fly the plane, and both expressed confidence in their fleets.
The MAX 8 that crashed Sunday was 4 months old and minutes into a Nairobi-bound flight from Addis Ababa when it slammed into a field. In October, a Lion Air plane of the same model crashed into the Java Sea minutes after departing from Jakarta, Indonesia. None of the 189 passengers and crew survived.
Both flights crashed after drastic speed fluctuations during ascent. Both pilots made ill-fated efforts to return to their airport of origin after takeoff. The FAA said it expects to require Boeing to complete MAX 8 flight control system enhancements – prompted by the Lion Air crash – by month’s end.
The plane involved in Sunday’s crash was delivered to the airline in November, had flown 1,200 hours and had undergone a maintenance check Feb. 4. The pilot, who had more than 8,000 hours of flight experience, had issued a distress call and tried to return to the airport.