Family of British aid worker killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash begin legal action

The family of a United Nations worker killed in the Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 737 Max crash have begun legal action in the US.

Joanna Toole, 36, was one of seven British passengers on board flight ET302  from Addis Ababa to Nairobi on 10 March 2019. The plane crashed shortly after take-off. All 157 passengers and crew died.

It was the second such plane to crash in five months; in October 2018 a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max was lost in similar circumstances soon after it left Jakarta airport in Indonesia, with 189 deaths.

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In both crashes, it is believed a faulty “angle of attack” sensor triggered the anti-stall system, known as MCAS. The software forced the nose of the aircraft down despite the pilots’ efforts to keep the plane flying.

All Boeing 737 Max jets were grounded worldwide shortly after the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

Acting on behalf of Ms Toole’s family, the law firm Irwin Mitchell has filed a claim against Boeing and Rosemount Aerospace – maker of the angle-of-attack sensor – in the Federal Court in Chicago.

Clive Garner, head of Irwin Mitchell’s aviation law team, said: “The proceedings involve allegations of a catalogue of serious failures by Boeing. The allegations include criticism of Boeing’s decision to fit new, larger engines to the existing 737 airframe.

“These engines altered the aircraft’s handling characteristics and, in particular, caused the nose of the aircraft to pitch upwards in the period following take off, increasing the risk of an engine stall.

“To reduce this risk Boeing introduced a new software system called MCAS which automatically pitched the nose of the aircraft downwards when the angle of attack sensors fitted to the aircraft signalled that the angle of the aircraft was too steep. 

“However, it is also alleged that the MCAS software was faulty and it is now being re-designed. Further, pilots of the new MAX 8 aircraft were not made sufficiently aware of the operation of the new software and were not adequately trained to deal with a situation like the one that arose on flight ET302.

“Rosemount Aerospace is also a defendant in the proceedings. Rosemount manufactured the aircraft’s angle-of-attack Sensors, at least one of which appears to have been faulty. 

“The sensor sent inaccurate information to the MCAS system which repeatedly pitched the nose of the aircraft downwards, over-ruling the actions of the pilots who repeatedly tried to gain altitude to avoid the aircraft hitting the ground.”

Boeing is working with airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and foreign regulators to get the 737 Max re-certified.

In a statement last week, Boeing said: “The FAA review and process for returning the 737 Max to passenger service are designed to result in a thorough and comprehensive assessment.

“Boeing will not offer the 737 Max for certification by the FAA until we have satisfied all requirements for certification of the Max and its safe return to service.

Norwegian and Tui Airways both flew Boeing 737 Max jets and have had to charter in additional capacity for the summer.

Ryanair has ordered 210 of the aircraft but none has so far been delivered.

At the Paris Air Show, British Airways parent company, IAG, said it intended to buy 200 Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

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