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'Clear similarities' between both Boeing 737 MAX crashes, French experts say

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 went down minutes into a flight earlier this month.

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 parked at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa
An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 parked at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa
Image: AP/PA Images

THERE WERE “CLEAR similarities” between this month’s crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX plane and a Lion Air plane crash last October, the French civil aviation investigation bureau has said.

 An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 went down minutes into a flight to Nairobi in Kenya earlier this month, killing all 157 people on board, months after a Lion Air jet of the same model crashed in Indonesia killing 189.

This comes as Boeing said today that the flight stabilisation system under scrutiny following two deadly 737 MAX plane crashes met all US regulations.

“The 737 MAX was certified in accordance with the identical Federal Aviation Administration requirements and processes that have governed certification of all previous new airplanes and derivatives,” Boeing said.

“The FAA considered the final configuration and operating parameters of MCAS during MAX certification, and concluded that it met all certification and regulatory requirements,” Boeing added.

Boeing and regulators are facing increased examination over the stall prevention system, MCAS, which authorities have said was likely a factor in deadly crashes in Indonesia in October, while the crash in Ethiopia earlier this month showed similarities.

The French civil aviation investigation bureau BEA has concluded there were “clear similarities” between the Ethiopian Airlines and the Lion Air crashes.

 The French bureau said that black box data from the Ethiopian Airlines flight showed the links and will be used for further study.

Since the Ethiopian crash, questions have been raised not only about Boeing, but also the FAA and its close relationship with the company.

While it may take months for definitive conclusions, experts are asking why the MCAS was given the green light despite objections by American pilots who had voiced concerns with the system.

Investigations into the Lion Air crash in October implicated the MCAS, which can erroneously force the plane down when the autopilot is engaged if it detects the plane may be at risk of a stall.

Both crashes happened shortly after takeoff.

Ethiopia Plane Crash Rescue workers at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines crash Source: Mulugeta Ayene via PA Images

Complaints

American pilots had complained of the flaw.

However, Boeing has been working on a software upgrade to the system and issued new instructions about how to override the issue in the meantime.

The US Transportation Department’s inspector general is probing the FAA’s approval of the MCAS, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The newspaper also said the criminal division of the Justice Department was looking into the development of the plane.

The 737 MAX was certified as a variant of the 737 Next Generation, the plane it replaced, despite major differences in the engine and the MCAS, according to documents available on the FAA’s website.

But because of budget constraints, the FAA delegated aspects of the approval process to Boeing itself, according to sources.

Under a programme, known as the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA), employees of Boeing are accredited by the FAA to assist in approving the aircraft – including design, production, flight tests, maintenance and other systems – as well as signing off on the training procedures of pilots on new planes.

Includes reporting by The Associated Press and © AFP 2019

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