On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed near Addis Ababa airport shortly after takeoff. The crash resulted in the deaths of all 157 people on board and one of the longest aircraft groundings in history.
The crash had been the second incident involving a Boeing 737 Max within five months. On October 29, 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 plummeted into the Java Sea. Lion Air Flight 610 had only been airborne for 13 minutes while Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 had been airborne for only 6 minutes.
Following the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, over 400 Boeing 737 Max aircraft have been grounded worldwide. One year later, authorities answer questions regarding the events surrounding the 2019 crash and the safety of the plane.
According to ABC News, Ethiopian investigators have cited Boeing’s design failures and poor pilot training for the cause of the accident. Specifically, the Ethiopia Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau blames the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control software that Boeing has installed in 737 Max jets before the crash.
In both incidents, incorrect data from a faulty sensor caused MCAS to misfire, which repeatedly pushed down the nose of the planes. Since MCAS was not included in the pilot manuals, pilots struggled in each instance to regain control of the aircraft.
In the case of Flight 302, pilots had initially disabled MCAS, only to switch it back on after the plane’s nose had pitched down. Investigators suspect that the decision may have doomed the plane.
As of now, Boeing is still working with the FAA to lift the grounding on the Boeing 737 Max by rewriting the entire flight computer software. However, investigators claim that these fixes are unrelated to the problems that had caused the crashes. Problems are occurring with wiring in the plane’s tail and an indicator light.
Boeing plans to conduct a certification flight test with FAA pilots in the near future with hopes that the 737 Max will return to service in the summer.
Ultimately, the company’s biggest hurdle will likely be passengers uncomfortable with traveling aboard the rebranded aircraft.
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