On March 10, 2019, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane operating as Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed shortly after taking off from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people onboard. The crash is the deadliest aviation disaster in Ethiopia’s history.
The victims of the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash were from 35 countries and included at least 22 employees working for United Nations-affiliated agencies. The nations of Britain, Canada, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Slovakia and the United Sates all lost four or more citizens in the crash.
According to U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Michael Raynor, eight Americans died in the crash. Raynor said the American victims were “people who either lived here or were here to work and contribute to the development of this continent.”
“Eight inspiring lives and eight true tragedies and our hearts go out to everyone impacted by their deaths,” Raynor said of the victims.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 departed from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport at approximately 8:38 a.m. local time bound for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. The passenger manifest included eight flight crew members and 149 passengers.
Minutes after takeoff, the pilot informed air traffic controllers of a problem with the aircraft and requested a return to the airport. At approximately 8:44, just six minutes after takeoff, the plane disappeared from radar and crashed near the town of Bishoftu, some 39 miles southeast of Bole International Airport.
What Caused the Ethiopian Airlines Crash?
Officials investigating aviation disasters of this magnitude typically take a year or more to issue a report on the probable cause. The Kenyan and Ethiopian governments will lead the crash investigation with assistance from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
While it may take some time before we know exactly what caused this tragedy, many in the aviation community believe a design defect with the Boeing 737 MAX 8 could be a possible contributing factor.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 is the newest version of Boeing’s most popular aircraft. Approximately 350 are in use by 54 operators throughout the world, according to U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records.
But Boeing and its latest aircraft are facing worldwide scrutiny after two devastating 737 MAX 8 crashes over the last six months killed nearly 350 people. In October of 2018, a Lion Air flight crashed shortly after takeoff in Indonesia, killing all 189 people onboard.
Some circumstances between the Lion Air crash and the Ethiopian Airlines crash appear similar, bolstering concerns that a design defect could be at the center of both disasters.
Similarities Between Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Both:
– Involved brand new airplanes that had been delivered straight from Boeing to the airlines within four months of the disasters.
– Experienced unstable vertical airspeed after takeoff.
– Crashed shortly after takeoff in generally clear weather conditions.
– Flight crews requested returns to their departure airports but were so imperiled that they could not make it back.
– Entered into steep nosedives.
– No evidence of terrorism thus far in both investigations.
“Two highly-experienced, professional pilots could not recover from what appear to be out-of-control stalls, facts which reveal the most probable explanation for both the Lion Air crash and this crash is a design defect in the airplane’s stall recognition and recovery systems,” says board-certified trial attorney, Ronald L.M. Goldman from the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman.
“Before more people die, the B737 MAX fleet must be grounded until the NTSB gets to the bottom of the problem and Boeing fixes it. Two disasters within months of each other from the same brand-new plane under similar circumstances should be a serious red flag.”
It is yet to be determined if the Lion Air crash or the Ethiopian Airlines crash are cases of runaway elevator trim, a condition where the trim tabs on control surfaces like the airplane’s elevators operate to demand full nose down or up authority. The job of the trim tabs is to lighten the load on a flying surface (wing or elevator or rudder) such that the pilot does not have to maintain pressure for controlled flight.
If the elevator trim tab is rolled to full down, it will pitch the airplane into a dive and the controls will be exceedingly heavy, making recovery by pulling back on the control wheel or stick difficult if not impossible. In these cases, the airspeed indicators, and the computers that run them, likely were not giving the pilots good information. In both crashes, the abrupt pitch down will have taken the pilots by surprise, and all efforts were likely made to pull back on the control column to raise the nose, fighting a force greater than their strength.
China, Indonesia and Several Airlines Ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 Following Ethiopian Airlines Crash
China, Indonesia and several other airlines around the world grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8s following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. China has nearly 100 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in operation, more than a quarter the total operating in the world.
The grounding prompted a massive sell-off of Boeing stock, which fell by 9% the day after the fatal crash.
Boeing said it does not intend to issue any new guidance to its 737 MAX 8 customers. The company will send a technical team to Ethiopia to assist investigators, however. In a statement, Boeing said the company was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane.”
Which Airlines Fly Boeing 737 MAX 8 Aircraft?
A full list of airlines that fly Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft can be found here.
Despite several airlines grounding Boeing 737 MAX 8s in the aftermath of the ET302 crash, the following airlines issued statements indicating they will continue to fly Boeing 737 MAX 8’s:
American Airlines has 24 737 MAX 8 planes in its fleet. In a statement, the airline said it would not ground them. “We have full confidence in the aircraft and our crew members, who are the best and most experienced in the industry.”
Fiji Airways has two 737 MAX 8s. “We have full confidence in the airworthiness of our entire fleet,” the airline said in a statement.
Flydubai operates 11 737 MAX 8 aircraft. The airline “remain(s) confident in the airworthiness of [their] fleet.”
GOL Linhas Aéreas has seven 737 MAX 8 Boeings. “GOL continues to follow the investigations and maintains close contact with Boeing for clarification,” the airline said in a statement.
Icelandair operates three Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. The company said it “is not taking any action following recent events.”
Norwegian Airlines has 18 Boeing 737 MAX 8s. The airline said in a statement that it would follow instruction and recommendations from Boeing and aviation authorities.
Silk Air has six Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. The airline has no plans to ground them.
Southwest Airlines operates 34 737 MAX 8s, the most in the U.S. In a statement following the crash in Ethiopia, Southwest said it remains confident in its fleet of over 750 Boeing aircraft.
TUI operates 15 Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. “We have no indication that we can’t operate our 737 MAX in a safe way,” the company said in a statement.
WestJet has 13 MAX 8 aircraft in its fleet. The airline claims it is monitoring the situation closely but remains “confident in the safety of [its] Boeing 737 fleet.”
Boeing Withheld Information About Potential Hazards with 737 MAX
In November of 2018, just weeks after the Lion Air Flight 610 crash, the Wall Street Journal reported that Boeing “withheld information about potential hazards associated with a new flight-control feature suspected of playing a role in last month’s fatal Lion Air jet crash…”
According to the article, in certain circumstances, the Boeing 737 MAX 8’s automated stall prevention system could push the plane down “unexpectedly and so strongly that flight crews can’t pull it back up.” In a safety bulletin issued a week after the Lion Air crash, Boeing told airlines that the issue could result in a steep nosedive or crash, even if pilots are flying manually and do not anticipate flight-control computers kicking in.
Safety experts told WSJ that neither airline managers nor pilots were told about the new flight-control system on the 737 MAX 8, and were therefore unprepared to deal with the possible risks. The FAA issued an airworthiness directive (AD) in November to instruct operators how to train pilots to deal with the issue.
International Aviation Accident Attorneys with Experience Litigating Against Boeing
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman represents victims harmed in aviation disasters, including international commercial crashes. Our firm has a track record of success in claims against some of the world’s largest international airliners, including, among many others:
– Aero Mexico
– Asiana Airlines
– British European Airways
– China Eastern Airlines
– Korean Air
– Singapore Airlines
– SAS-Scandinavian Airline Systems
– TACA Airlines
Our attorneys have also handled international aviation cases involving airlines and U.S. manufacturers that do business worldwide, including, among others:
– McDonnell Douglas
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman senior partner Ronald L.M. Goldman has been litigating aviation mechanical defect cases for more than 40 years. In the 1970s, Ron represented plaintiffs in a case stemming from the British European Airways Flight 548 crash in London, United Kingdom, which appears to share similarities with the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash.
Like the ET302 crash, British European Airways (BEA) Flight 548 crashed minutes after takeoff, killing all onboard. The crash sequence started with retraction movement of the front (leading edge) slats (droops, in English terms). These devices are part of a high lift system that enlarges the wing in order to provide lift at lower speeds, and to streamline the wing after climb to gain more speed.
The moment the droops started to retract, the lift was lost and therefore the wing (the whole airplane) stalled. The pilots did not know of the droops’ movement as it was uncommanded, so they did not understand that they were stalling. In fact, this crash case coined the term “out of configuration stall.”
There was no warning on the panel that the droops were moving out of takeoff configuration. Since the stall occurred without a stall warning (pilots are trained to recognize the edge of a stall, and to recover once that is appreciated), the pilots had no notice that they were in fact in a stall, and believed they had a failure of the stall recovery system; the system was trying to recover from a stall but all indications in the cockpit were that there was no stall. Consequently, the pilots disabled the stall recovery system, sealing their fate.
Investigators concluded that several factors caused the deep stall, noting that an unspecified “technical problem” was apparently resolved prior to takeoff. In the case that followed, Ron secured a settlement for his clients in the U.S., even though the crash occurred in a foreign country.
“We don’t yet know what caused the Ethiopian crash, but if it is anything like the event in the BEA case, it will show that the airplane’s stall recovery system was activated, and hundreds of pounds of pressure was exerted automatically on the control pushing the nose down, as the system sensed a stall possibly due to incorrect data being fed into it by the computers that monitor and interpret the over the wing air flow data, or possibly just malfunctioning computers,” says Goldman.
“We can say with confidence that in the BEA, Lion Air and now Ethiopian Airlines incidents, the sequence that set in motion the course to disaster started with mechanical malfunction that the pilots were unable to overcome. In some macabre sense, we are still fighting the battles first encountered at the dawn of the passenger jet travel era over 45 years ago.” – Aviation Attorney Ronald L.M. Goldman
In 2017, Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman earned a groundbreaking ruling in an international plane crash case against Germanwings stemming from the fatal crash of Flight 9525 in 2015. Our firm represented the family of the only Americans onboard the ill-fated flight, Yvonne Selke and her daughter, Emily.
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman filed suit against Germanwings and other defendants in Virginia on behalf of surviving members of the Selke family. Germanwings filed a motion to dismiss the case, alleging lack of personal jurisdiction over the airline in Virginia on the grounds that it was a German corporation with no offices in the U.S., had never flown its planes into the United States, and that tickets for the fatal flight weren’t codeshare tickets with United.
However, U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled that the “Court has personal jurisdiction over Germanwings because the airline purposely availed itself of Virginia by transacting business in the Commonwealth through its agent, United. This business activity resulted in the sale of tickets that gave rise to Plaintiffs’ cause of action.”
This was a significant ruling “[g]iven the tide of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have restricted personal jurisdiction,” said Ilyas A. Akbari, partner and aviation attorney at Baum Hedlund. “This decision should serve as a ray of sunshine to the plaintiffs’ community, especially in international plane crash cases. Our case shows that if American residents are killed while flying overseas, their families can still bring an action against a foreign airline in America.”
The National Law Journal selected Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman as a finalist for Elite Trial Lawyer honors in the practice area of consumer protection for the firm’s work in Selke, et al. v. Germanwings GMBH, et al.
If you lost a loved one in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman can help you. Contact us today or call toll-free 1-800-827-0087 to speak with an attorney about your claim.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash Investigation Updates
FBI Joins Boeing MAX Investigation | Mar. 22, 2019
The FBI has joined the investigation into how officials deemed the Boeing 737 MAX plane as safe in the months before the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes. Investigators are looking into how the aircraft was certified as criticisms about the relationship between Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continue to grow. The Transportation Department leads the investigation with assistance from the FBI, which will provide resources, a source told USA Today.
A federal grand jury is investigating the matter, also focusing on the certification process.
Canada and Europe, meanwhile, announced they will review revisions Boeing makes to its anti-stall software, breaking from their previous policies of going with the FAA’s assessment. Under an international agreement, if planes are certified as safe in the country they are built, regulators in other countries usually accept that certification with little to no review of their own.
Ethiopian Airlines Pilot Not Trained on Boeing MAX 8 | Mar. 21, 2019
A report from Reuters indicates the captain of the crashed Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 had not been given time to practice on a MAX 8 simulator before flying the plane. The information comes from an unnamed colleague, who also told Reuters the pilot was scheduled for training at the end of March.
According to the source, Ethiopian Airlines did not receive manuals regarding the anti-stall feature, the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), while most of the information pilots have received on the system has been through the media.
John Cox, an airline safety consultant, told Reuters that Boeing likely underplayed the differences between the 737 NG and the 737 MAX planes. “The operators didn’t realize the magnitude of the differences,” Cox said.
Reports from Lion Air Crash Indicate Off-Duty Pilot Saved Plane One Day Before Tragedy | Mar. 20, 2019
Early reports from the Indonesian investigation into the previous Lion Air crash indicate that the same Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft that crashed in Oct. 2018 faced an identical situation only the day before and that an extra pilot who was seated in the jump seat prevented disaster. The pilot, who was not part of the flight’s crew, recognized the problem with MCAS and told the flight crew how to respond to prevent a crash.
According to reports, the pilot told the flight crew to cut power to the trim system’s motor, which allowed the plane to continue gaining altitude and make its way to its destination. The crew requested maintenance for the aircraft but did not alert workers about issues with the stall warning.
DOJ Investigating Boeing, FAA MAX Jet Regulation | Mar. 19, 2019
Reports indicate the Department of Justice is investigating how the FAA oversaw Boeing and its development of the 737 MAX. A source told The Associated Press that a federal grand jury sent a subpoena on March 11 to an individual involved in development the plane, and that subpoena concerns emails and other communications linked to the 737 MAX.
The inspector general of the Transportation Department is also investigating how the FAA approved Boeing’s plane. Neither the Justice Department nor the Inspector General would speak about any potential investigations.
A preliminary report from the recent Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 crash is expected within 30 days from the Ethiopian Accident Investigation Bureau.
FAA Boeing 737 MAX Safety Analysis Was Flawed | Mar. 19, 2019
A report from The Seattle Times indicates that the FAA’s safety analysis of the 737 MAX was deeply flawed, including understating the power of the MCAS flight control system, not accounting for the system resetting itself each time the pilot responded, and assessed a failure of the MCAS as only hazardous, not catastrophic. Additionally, the report argues that FAA managers pushed to allow Boeing to conduct its own safety assessments and to provide quick results.
Boeing’s engineers developed a safety analysis for MCAS, and that safety analysis concluded MCAS met FAA regulations. Meanwhile, FAA experts said the agency’s managers pushed them to speed up their analysis of other critical assessments, including giving Boeing additional responsibilities in analyzing its plane.
Boeing decided against notifying its customers about the MCAS system, and had denied it required any specific pilot training.
Preliminary Information from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Recorder Released | March 18, 2019
Preliminary information from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 data recorder indicates the March 10 crash has “clear similarities” with the Lion Air crash in Indonesia. Reports indicate that the jack screws that operate the trim tabs of the elevator of both airplanes were found to be in the full nose down position.
Ethiopia’s transport minister noted that the flight recorders were in good condition and analysts were able to obtain almost all data they contained. The flight data recorder and the voice recorder are now both in France where they are being analyzed.
According to transport minister Dagmawit Moges, detailed findings on the Ethiopian plane crash should be released within the month. Speculation has been raised that issues with sensors and software on the Boeing 737 MAX played a role in both crashes.
Black Box Analysis Begins | Mar. 15, 2019
The black box recorders from the doomed Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 aircraft are now in Paris and are being reviewed by experts in France. The recorders are expected to contain information such as readings from the plane’s sensors and pilot voice communications. Investigators on the scene have reportedly found the plane’s jackscrew, which sets the trim to raise and lower the nose. According to sources, the trim was in a position similar to that in the Lion Air crash, which would have pushed the plane’s nose down.
Pilot communications with air traffic control are also coming to light, with Captain Yared Getachew, in a panicked tone, requesting permission to return to the airport.
FAA Suggests Link Between Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air Crashes | March 14, 2019
Following its order to ground all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that satellite data from the Ethiopian Airlines crash suggested it was linked to the Lion Air crash. When the FAA announced it was grounding the aircraft, it cited similarities between the crashes that “warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed.”
Early reports indicate both planes had difficulty gaining altitude with a vertical speed that was not stable before they each crashed within 15 minutes of takeoff. In both cases, the pilots radioed air traffic control to report issues with the plane and request to return to the airport. Acting FAA Director Dan Ewell noted in an interview with NPR that evidence from the crash site further suggested similarities between the crashes. The FAA and NTSB are assisting in the investigation.
US Grounds Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 Planes | March 13, 2019
On Mar. 13, 2019, the US announced it was grounding all Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 planes, effective immediately. The move follows similar decisions by other countries, including Canada, to ground their MAX 8 fleets after finding similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash. The US was the last primary MAX 8 user to ground the planes, after Canada announced that no Boeing 737 MAX planes would be permitted to arrive in, depart from or use Canadian airspace.
The move covers both the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft and affects American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.
34 Airlines Suspend Use of Boeing MAX 8 | March 12, 2019
At least 34 airlines around the world have suspended their use of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, following two crashes in fewer than six months, pushing the total number of idle planes to above 130. The European Union has also suspended any flight operations involving the MAX 8 and a similar model, the Boeing 737 MAX 9, although the US has not. Other countries to ground the aircraft include India, Germany, Australia and China, with the EU saying its suspension would affect all third-country operators who fly into, out of, or through EU territory using the MAX 8.
Although the US has not grounded the MAX 8, industry insiders are speaking out in favor of suspending the aircraft’s use. The president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines’ flight attendants, asked the company’s CEO to consider grounding the planes until an investigation was complete. American Airlines has 24 MAX 8 planes, second only behind Southwest Airlines, which has 34 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
FAA to Issue Notice to MAX 8 Operators | March 11, 2019
The U.S. FAA announced today that it plans to issue an international notification to Boeing 737 MAX 8 operators, noting that it will “take immediate and appropriate action” if the agency identifies a safety issue.
Investigators Find ET302 Black Box | March 11, 2019
Officials recovered two flight data recorders from the downed Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 plane today. The plane’s Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) will be analyzed by investigators in the coming days for clues as to what went wrong before the fatal crash.