China grounds domestic Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets after Air Ethiopia crash
FOR the second time in less than five months, a brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft has crashed without any survivors, raising questions about the safety of an aircraft that has only been in service since 2017
FOR the second time in less than five months, a brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft has crashed without any survivors, raising questions about the safety of an aircraft that has only been in service since 2017.
The crash on Sunday of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 killed all 157 people on board and involved the same kind of aircraft as a Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189 passengers and crew in October.
The latest disaster prompted China's aviation regulator to force all domestic airlines to suspend use of the aircraft from 6pm on Monday, saying both crashes occurred during the take-off phase and had similarities. Ethiopian Airlines said it too had grounded its fleet of the aircraft until further notice.
Soon after take-off from Addis Ababa for Nairobi, the pilot asked for permission to return to the airport after reporting a problem with the aircraft. The plane lost contact with air traffic control six minutes after departure, and plunged to the ground.
According to the flight tracking website Flightrader24, the plane's 'vertical speed was unstable after take-off' and data on its website shows that the aircraft also did not gain altitude smoothly, though it recovered height just before losing contact, reports UK's Financial Times.
Aviation industry officials stress that it is too soon to say what caused the Ethiopian crash and whether there is any connection with the Lion Air disaster. 'So far we effectively know nothing but that the aircraft had erratic vertical airspeed, but there could be many different causes for that,' said aircraft industry analyst Richard Aboulafia.
But there are some superficial similarities: both planes crashed soon after take-off, both involved a brand new aircraft, and both suffered from erratic vertical airspeed and altitude before going down. 'Those characteristics echo a bit about the Lion Air crash, so that's what attention will turn to first,' said Mr Aboulafia.
An initial investigation of the Lion Air disaster found problems with a new stall-prevention feature on the 737 MAX, which appears to have erroneously issued repeated nose-down commands during the Lion Air flight.
There is no indication so far that the Ethiopian flight suffered the same problem, though aviation officials said it is likely that investigators will look into the possibility.
In addition, the Indonesian report found that the Lion Air plane was not 'airworthy' and had encountered similar technical issues on a previous flight. The Ethiopian Airlines plane had no reported maintenance issues prior to flight ET302.