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Ethiopian Airline plane crash raises queries over safety of Boeing 737 Max

The death of 157 people on a brand new Ethiopian Airlines plane bound for Nairobi on Sunday has once again raised questions on the safety of Boeing 737 Max model.

The plane, which is said to have been acquired a few months ago, is the same model as the ill-fated Indonesian aircraft which crashed in October, last year.

The flight took off at 8:38am and lost contact six minutes later, crashing near the city of Bishoftu, less than 40 miles (6okm) to the southeast of Addis Ababa. On board were 149 passengers and eight crew members.

The plane was acquired in July last year and had its maiden flight in October. Reports indicate that the flight’s vertical speed was “unstable” after take-off.

MALFUNCTIONING SENSOR

The Max model is the newest version of Boeing’s workhorse 737 model, the world’s most popular commercial aircraft.

Following the crash of Lion Air flight 610 in Indonesia in October last year, Boeing issued an emergency notice that an erroneous sensor input could “cause the flight crew to have difficulty controlling the aeroplane,” leading to “possible impact with terrain”.

The crash left 190 people dead.

In the Lion Air crash, a malfunctioning sensor convinced the aeroplane’s software that the flight was stalling and corrected by pointing the nose down.
This model lacks a common override feature that allows pilots to reliably pull planes out of nose dives.

Ethiopian Airlines’ last major accident was in 2010 when an aircraft plunged into the Mediterranean shortly after take-off from Beirut’s airport, killing all 90 people on board.

HIJACKED

Four years earlier, the airlines’ plane crashed after being hijacked en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi by three Ethiopians seeking asylum in Australia. Some 125 out of the 175 people on board perished.

In a statement on Sunday, Boeing said: “Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, 737 MAX 8 aeroplane. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team.”

The statement added that Boeing technical team is prepared to provide technical assistance at the request and under the direction of the US National Transportation Safety Board.

The 737 Max is relatively new to the skies, having been launched in 2016. After the Indonesian crash last year, several questions were raised on the safety of the new planes, among them need to retrain pilots in order to understand the new changes made to the aircraft.