The crew of the Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed just after take-off killing all 157 people on board was unable to stop the plane repeatedly nosediving, despite following all of the manufacturer’s safety procedures.
The findings come in the first official report into the March 10 crash, based on data from the flight recorders recovered from the wreckage of the Boeing 737 Max 8.
The report clears the pilots of blame and instead points the finger at Boeing’s automated flight control system.
“The crew performed all the procedures repeatedly provided by the manufacturer but was not able to control the aircraft," Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges said during a press conference Thursday, citing data from the Boeing 737 MAX 8's recorders.
The report does not attribute blame for the crash or go into detailed analysis of the flight, but Dagmawit’s comments suggest that investigators are focusing their attention on the American-made plane’s anti-stall feature — known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).
The findings line up with the conclusions of a preliminary report into the crash of an Indonesian Lion Air plane last October, which said the pilot was unable to override MCAS after it automatically forced the plane's nose down more than 24 times before it crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 189 passengers and crew.
Dagmawit said the Ethiopian Airlines pilots were unable to correct “repetitive nose-down" movement of the aircraft within minutes after leaving Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.
The airline added that “it was very unfortunate they could not recover the airplane from the persistence of nosediving.”
Aviation authorities around the world grounded the entire Boeing 737 Max fleet in March based on the similarities between the two crashes that happened in the space of five months.
Dagmawit said the report recommends “the aircraft flight control system shall be reviewed by the manufacturer.” Boeing has committed to upgrading the entire Boeing 737 Max fleet to address the problem, but earlier this week the company said a software update to address some of the issues would be delayed.
“Aviation authorities shall verify that the review of the aircraft flight control system has been adequately addressed by the manufacturer before the release of the aircraft for operations,” Dagmawit added.
Boeing is already facing one lawsuit related to the Ethiopian Airlines crash, filed last month by the family of one of the victims.
The impact of the grounding and the reputational damage on the U.S. manufacturer will become clearer next week when the company reports first-quarter deliveries and orders.
Cover: In this March 11, 2019, file photo, rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, Ethiopia. A published report says pilots of an Ethiopian airliner that crashed followed Boeing’s emergency steps for dealing with a sudden nose-down turn but couldn’t regain control. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, File)