Tragedy of Ethiopian Airline’s flight 302 | Sunday Observer

Tragedy of Ethiopian Airline’s flight 302

Boeing 737 Max 8, which was introduced as a reliable fuel- and cost-efficient solution to air travel in the 21st century last year, came under fire on Sunday after two fatal Max crashes within six months killing 346 people.  Last October, a Lion Air flight crashed into the Indonesian sea, leaving  all 189 on board, dead.

Last Sunday’s crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, soon after take-off from Addis Ababa killing all on board has drawn the attention of the whole world towards ensuring safe air travel. The Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport in Ethiopia to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya early Sunday morning, crashed six minutes after takeoff near the rural town of Bishoftu, killing 149 passengers and 8 crew members. The cause of the accident still under investigation is speculated to be due to technical faults in the aircraft.

It was 29 year-old Captain Yared Getachew who piloted the craft and who was remembered by Ethiopian Airlines Chief, Tewolde GebreMariam as a “commendable” pilot with an excellent flying record who had clocked up more than 8000 flight hours. His first officer, Ahmed Nur Mohammod Nur was equally experienced and their loss is immeasurable . All employees were given new training following the Lion Air disaster six months ago, which saw another Boeing 737 Max 8 plunge to the ground in Indonesia, according to The African Exponent on Saturday (16).

It also noted a source who reviewed air traffic communications telling that the pilot within a minute of the flight’s departure, reported a “flight control” problem as the aircraft was well below the minimum safe height from the ground during a climb. The pilot had also requested permission to return to Addis Ababa airport three minutes after takeoff. The source also reported the flight climbing to “ an unusually high altitude and disappearing from the radar over a restricted military zone.”

According to the air traffic controllers’ recorded voice exchange the Pilot was having difficulties with the flight control of the aeroplane. He asked to return to base and clearance was given to him. That was at 8.44 am. At the same time, the aircraft disappeared from the radar. The flight had left Addis Ababa’s Bole Airport at 8.38 a.m, reported the newspaper.

Different nationalities

The passengers and the crew were from 35 nationalities. The largest number of victims was from Kenya (32). Eighteen were Canadians and nine were Ethiopians. Italy, China and the US had eight each, UK and France seven each, Egypt six, the Netherlands five, India and Slovakia four each, Sweden and Russia three each and other countries one or two.

There was a large number of delegates who were visiting Nairobi to participate in the UN Environment Assembly which started on Monday. Nineteen people were either UN delegates or affiliated to the UN agencies, reported the news services. Among the dead was Sebastiano Tusa, 66, a renowned Italian archaeologist, the Italian government said. He had been flying to Kenya for a project with UNESCO. A Slovakian MP, Anton Hrnko, wrote on Facebook that his wife, son and daughter had all been killed in the crash.

Several prominent humanitarian workers had been among the victims, including International Committee for the Development of Peoples founder Paolo Dieci; three members of the Italian humanitarian organisation Africa Tremila, and Save the Children child protection in emergencies adviser Tamirat Mulu Demessie.

Loss of life

One Canadian family lost six members from three generations, the New York Times reported. Manant Vaidya, from Brampton, Toronto was reported confirming that his sister Kosha Vaidya, 37, brother in-law Prerit Dixit, 43, and their daughters, Ashka Dixit, (14) and Anushka Dixit,(13). Vaidya’s parents Pannagesh Vaidya, 73, and Hansini Vaidya, 67, were among the 18 Canadians killed. They had been on their way to a vacation in Kenya. While Kosha Vaidya wanted to show her country of birth to her daughters, the parents had been returning to the country for the first time in more than 50 years.

A Kenyan family also had had a similar loss. John Quindos, had been waiting at the Jomo Kenyata airport in Nairobi for his wife, his daughter and his three grandchildren, specially a nine-month-old granddaughter named Ruby who was born in Canada. He had never seen her before. He never got the chance, the newspaper reported.

Relatives storm out

On Thursday (14), families of some of the 157 victims of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were reported storming out of a meeting with the airline. They complained that they were not being given timely information, as others paid their respects at the crash site. The airline had called a meeting with families in a hotel in Addis Ababa but around 100 relatives walked out. Investigators found only charred remains of passengers. “We wanted to be told about DNA identification but they told us nothing. They were just offering condolences,” said a Kenyan who lost her sister and did not want to give her name. “I’m actually going home today because there is nothing here.”

Meanwhile, two men, from Dubai and Greece regarded themselves ‘lucky to be alive’ due to delays of connecting flights and procedures. Antonis Mavropoulos, had missed the flight by mere minutes and because he was carrying his baggage. He had arrived at his gate just after boarding had finished on Sunday morning. It was reported that Ahmed Khalid, a resident of Dubai whose flight from Dubai to Addis Ababa, was delayed, was told on arrival that he would have to take a later flight with Ethiopian Airlines for his connection to Nairobi.

Boeing 737 Max 8, which was introduced as a reliable fuel and cost-efficient solution to air travel in the 21st century last year, came under fire on Sunday after two fatal Max crashes within six months killing 346 people. Last October, a Lion Air flight crashed into the Indonesian sea, leaving all 189 on board, dead.

Data

After the revelation of the data from the air traffic monitor Flightradar 24 that the plane’s “vertical speed was unstable after take-off,” and that the pattern was similar to that of the fatal Lion Air flight, airlines around the world grounded Boeing, 737 Max 8 aircraft. China was the first country to ground its Max 8 fleet. The country had hundreds of Max 8s operating on its routes.

As the 47 countries including neighbouring India who operate Max 8s in their airlines joined in the grounding, USA was one of the last to ground its fleet. On Wednesday, CNN reported the USA Federal Aviation Administration’s(FAA) finding “fresh evidence as well as newly refined satellite data” prompting the decision to temporarily ban the jets. The FAA had previously held out while many countries banned the aircraft.

The FAA has a team investigating the disaster at the Ethiopian Airlines crash site working with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Under international rules, responsibility for leading the crash investigation lies with Ethiopia but the US -NTSB participated because the plane was designed and built in the United States. Representatives of Boeing and Cincinnati-based engine-maker CFM (a joint venture between General Electric and the French company Safran are advising the investigating team).

Max 8

Boeing 737 Max fleet is the latest in the company’s 737 line with Max 7,8, 9 and 10 models. Max 8 has been the fastest selling aircraft in the company’s history with more than 4,500 ordered by 100 flight operators globally. A small number of Max 9 models in operation, while Max 7 and Max 10 models are not due to roll-out in the near future.

Boeing, the US plane manufacturer, was reported saying that it “continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max”. However, after consultation with the FAA and the NTSB it had decided to ground the flights “out of an abundance of caution and to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety.” However, by Friday (15) both the Max 8s and 9s had been grounded by he flight operators around the globe.

After last year’s Lion Air disaster, Boeing issued guidance to pilots on how to manage the 737-Max’s new computer-controlled stability system MCAS, which stands for Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System. It is designed to prevent the plane stalling when making steep turns under manual control. A stall can happen when the angle at which the plane is flying gets too steep. This can reduce the lift generated by the wings, potentially making the plane drop. To recover from a stall, a pilot would normally push the plane’s nose down. In the 737 Max, MCAS does this automatically, moving the aircraft back to a ‘normal’ flight position. The system continues to repeat the process if the computer detects the plane is still tilted at a too-high angle. After the Lion Air crash, it was disclosed that the aircraft had experienced problems in the system.

Grievances

After the Ethiopian disaster, CNN reported the grievances of the US based as well as Ethiopian pilots had about the performance of the Boeing Max 8. The US pilots had reported about MCAS operating in flight while autopilot is switched off, which should not happen. Unable to manually override the software, the Lion Air pilots struggled to gain altitude before their 737 MAX 8 crashed into the sea with the loss of 189 lives. The Ethiopian pilots had expressed ‘widespread dissatisfaction’ with the training and information provided by Boeing when pilots move to the MAX series.

In a report in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, a senior Boeing official was quoted saying the company decided against providing more details to cockpit crews for fear of inundating them with too much technical information.

Investigators in France on Friday, started retrieving information from the cockpit voice and flight data recorders or black boxes. The two black boxes were flown to France on Thursday.

If the Ethiopian crash is linked to the MCAS system, the consequences for Boeing could be severe, reported the New York Times. It has already begun a costly redesign of the flight control software, an effort on which critics say Boeing has dragged its feet. It faces lawsuits from victims’ families and has suffered an incalculable blow to its reputation.

(VF)

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