Ethiopian Airlines: Flight recorders recovered from crash site

Written by on March 11, 2019

Media captionThe BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza, at the scene, said there was a huge crater at the site of the crash

The flight recorders from the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed on Sunday have been recovered by investigators.

The devices recovered from the crash site are the Boeing 737 Max 8’s cockpit voice recorder and the digital flight data recorder.

The plane en route from Addis Ababa to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, crashed six minutes after take-off, killing all 157 people on board.

Several airlines have grounded the model following the disaster.

The months-old aircraft came down near the town of Bishoftu, 60km (37 miles) south-east of the capital at 08:44 local time (05:44 GMT).

There were more than 30 nationalities on board the flight, including Kenyans, Ethiopians, Canadians and Britons.

Do we know how it happened?

The cause of the disaster is not yet clear. However, the pilot had reported difficulties and had asked to return to Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Airlines said.

“At this stage, we can’t rule out anything,” CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said.

“We can’t also attribute the cause to anything because we will have to comply with the international regulation to wait for the investigation.”

Map showing the flight path

Visibility was said to be good but air traffic monitor Flightradar24 reported that the plane’s “vertical speed was unstable after take-off”.

The pilot was named as Senior Capt Yared Getachew who had a “commendable performance” with more than 8,000 hours in the air, according to Ethiopian Airlines.

What do we know about the plane?

The 737 Max 8 aircraft has only been in commercial use since 2017.

The plane that crashed was among six of 30 that Ethiopian Airlines had ordered as part of its expansion. It underwent a “rigorous first check maintenance” on 4 February, the airline tweeted.

Boeing said it was “deeply saddened” by the crash and was sending a team to provide technical assistance.

Graphic showing the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane

It was the second crash in five months involving a 737 Max 8, and comparisons are being drawn with a Lion Air accident in Indonesia last October that killed 189 people.

Following the crash, investigators said the pilots had appeared to struggle with an automated system designed to keep the plane from stalling, a new feature of the jet.

The anti-stall system repeatedly forced the plane’s nose down, despite efforts by pilots to correct this, preliminary findings suggest.

The Lion Air plane was also new and the accident happened soon after take-off.

“It’s highly suspicious,” Mary Schiavo, former Inspector General of the US Transportation Department, told CNN.

“Here we have a brand-new aircraft that’s gone down twice in a year. That rings alarm bells in the aviation industry, because that just doesn’t happen.”

After last October’s crash, Boeing sent an emergency notice to airlines warning them of a problem with the anti-stall system.

Ethiopian Airlines shared this image and said it showed CEO Tewolde Gebremariam at the crash site
Image captionEthiopian Airlines shared this image of CEO Tewolde Gebremariam at the crash site

Boeing is expected to release a software patch to the system to deal with this issue, according to Reuters.

However, it is not yet clear whether the anti-stall system was the cause of Sunday’s crash. Aviation experts say other technical issues or human error cannot be discounted.

What happens next?

The investigation will be led by Ethiopian authorities co-ordinating with teams of experts from Boeing and the US National Transportation Safety Board.

Ethiopian Airlines said it had grounded all of its 737 Max 8s “until further notice” as “an extra safety precaution”.

The airline’s first flight to Kenya since the crash landed at 10:25 local time on Monday, and a different model of plane was used.


  • China’s aviation regulator has also ordered local airlines to halt the flights of 737 Max 8s. More than 90 are in use by Chinese carriers including Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines
  • Cayman Airways also grounded its two Boeings of the same type
  • A spokeswoman for FlyDubai, which operates a number of 737 Max 8s, told Reuters that the company continued to have confidence in the aircraft
  • Several North American airlines have said they are monitoring the investigation. Southwest Airlines flies 31 737 Max 8s, while American Airlines and Air Canada each have 24 in their fleet
The Boeing 737 Max-8 aircraft that crashed on Sunday
Image captionThe Boeing 737 Max-8 aircraft that crashed on Sunday

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