An Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 with 157 people on board crashed minutes after take-off, the same new aircraft type as the Lion Air crash last year.
An Ethiopian Airlines aircraft with 157 people on board – 149 passengers and eight crew – crashed minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa on Sunday morning on its way to Nairobi. All on board are reported killed.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 was delivered to the airline only last November. It is the same new aircraft model as the Lion Air accident in October that killed all 189 people on board when it crashed into the Java Sea on high impact.
The aircraft, registration ET-AVJ, operating flight 302 to the Kenyan capital, lost contact at 08:44 six minutes after taking off from the Ethiopian capital.
Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s safest and most respected carriers, says the plane came down near the town of Bishoftu to the south-east of Addis Ababa.
The first news of the crash emerged from a tweet from the Ethiopian prime minister’s office expressing its “deepest condolences” to the families of those on the aircraft.
The MAX model is the newest version of the 737, the world’s most popular commercial aircraft.
It is not yet clear what caused the Ethiopian Airlines crash, but investigators from the airline and from Boeing will be looking at possible correlations with the Lion Air disaster.
More than a week after the Lion Air crash, Boeing issued a notice that a malfunctioning sensor on the MAX 8 could “cause the flight crew to have difficulty controlling the airplane,” leading to “possible impact with terrain”.
The comprehensive MAX 8 and MAX 9 onboard computer systems lack an override feature that allows pilots to easily pull planes out of nosedives and avert crashes. But Boeing failed to adequately warn pilots of this crucial change in the 737.
“We were completely in the dark,” Dennis Tajer, a 737 pilot and spokesman for the United States’ Allied Pilots Association, told the Washington Post late last year.
Boeing also said following the Lion Air crash that it had addressed the “flight control functionality” of its updated automated system.
“We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX,” it said. “Safety remains our top priority and is a core value for everyone at Boeing.”
Low-cost carriers such as Norwegian, Ryanair, Southwest and flyDubai are among the world’s biggest current and future customers of the Boeing 737 MAX 8.