‘Clear similarities’ between Boeing crashes in Ethiopia, Indonesia

NEW YORK (AFP) – Flight recorder data recovered from the wreckage of Boeing 737 MAX planes that crashed in Ethiopia and Indonesia shows “clear similarities”, Addis Ababa said last Sunday as the United States (US) maker announced it was finalising a software update for its under fire anti-stall system.

Pressure was mounting meanwhile on the US Federal Aviation Administration, which insisted it had followed standard procedures in certifying the plane model, even as it was reported to have come under investigation by the Department of Transport.

“The 737 MAX certification programme followed the FAA’s standard certification process,” the agency said in an email to AFP.

It said its procedures were “well established and have consistently produced safe aircraft designs”.

But reported similarities between the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8, killing all 157 on board, and the Lion Air crash in October of the same model of plane in Indonesia, leaving 189 dead, have raised serious doubts and triggered Boeing’s biggest crisis in decades.

The 737 MAX is a relatively new aircraft, having entered service only in May 2017 as Boeing’s answer to Airbus’s medium-haul A320 Neo.

Relatives hold photographs of the victims at a mass funeral at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. – AP

Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges said last Sunday that a study of the flight data recorder retrieved from the Ethiopian plane had shown “clear similarities” to that of the Lion Air flight in Indonesia.

She said the parallels would be the “subject of further study”.

As investigators continue their work, preliminary findings in the Lion crash have focussed on a possible malfunction of an anti-stall system known as the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System).

Boeing developed that system, because of the unusually forward placement of the plane’s engines, to avoid a stall.

The manufacturer said last Sunday it was close to releasing a long-awaited software patch to the system.

“While investigators continue to work to establish definitive conclusions, Boeing is finalising its development of a previously announced software update and pilot training revision that will address the MCAS flight control law’s behaviour in response to erroneous sensor inputs,” President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg said.