The March 10 crash
On March 10, the world was hit by the news that a passenger aircraft operated by Africa’s top national carrier had crashed. The reference point for the information was solely the office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
It remained the most quoted source for hours before the flier, Ethiopian Airlines, confirmed with further details of the said incident.
The focus of this article is to put as much information as possible on the crash, straddling the before, during and aftermath of what is one of the deadliest incidents Ethiopian has faced in recent years.
You can read about the following areas in our continued coverage below:
- Ethiopian says victims DNA tests to take months
- Trump’s nice words about Ethiopian as he speaks with Abiy
- Black box investigations start
- Boeing suspends deliveries of 737 MAX jets
- Black boxes in France, families lash out at airline
- Germany rejects, France accepts ‘black box analysis’
- US govt orders Boeing to ground all 737 MAX 9 and 9 jets
- Ethiopian Airlines CEO wants Boeing to ground 737 MAX planes
- Black boxes to be sent to Germany
- Airline CEO visits Bole International Airport
- Boeing team on ground in Addis Ababa
- Ethiopia appreciates global solidarity
- Black box retrieved from crash site
- PHOTOS: Search and rescue mission on site
- Who are the victims?
- Strong defense for Ethiopian’s safety record
- The Boeing 737 MAX8 – multi-pronged pressure
- PHOTOS: Memorial service in Addis Ababa
- Previous accidents by Ethiopian Airline
- The quality of information flow: govt and airline
- African, world leaders send condolences
- The departure and destination of ET302
- How long did the flight last, casualty list
- POEM: Travel gathered 157, death swooped
- About Ethiopian – Africa’s aviation leader
Crash victim DNA tests to take months
Ethiopian Airlines said on Saturday that DNA testing of the remains of the 157 passengers on board flight 302 may take up to six months as it offered bereaved families charred earth from the plane crash site to bury.
As families wait for the results from the investigation into the cause of the crash, Ethiopian Airlines is planning to hold a service on Sunday in Addis Ababa, at the Kidist Selassie, or Holy Trinity Cathedral, where many of the country’s past rulers are buried beneath its pink stone spires.
“We were told by the company that we will be given a kilo (of earth) each for burial at Selassie Church for a funeral they will organise,” said one family member who asked not to be named.
Papers given to the families at the Skylight Hotel on Saturday said death certificates would be issued within two weeks, and an initial payment made to cover immediate expenses.
The return of remains – most of which are charred and fragmented – would take up to six months, the papers said, but in the meantime earth from the crash site would be given.
Abdulmajid Sheriff, a Kenyan whose Yemeni brother-in-law died, said they had already held a service.
“We are Muslims we didn’t care about that (earth). We did yesterday our prayers at the mosque and that is all for us.”
Trump on Ethiopian and Abiy’s reforms
U.S. president Donald Trump has praised the Ethiopia national carrier in a call with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday. Abiy’s office said the two had spoken in a phone call which centered on the March 10 crash and on reforms back home.
READ MORE: Trump calls Abiy: Hails Ethiopian, backs reforms
Black box investigations start
Starting Friday, BEA investigators will try to retrieve information from the cockpit voice and flight data recorders, which were damaged in the disaster.
Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier, sent the black boxes to France because it does not have the equipment to analyze the data.
The information that they contain helps explain 90 percent of all crashes, according to aviation experts.
The first conclusions could take several days.
The crash-proof housing on the data recorder appeared to be intact but the voice recorder, which should have picked up the conversations between the pilots and between the pilots and air traffic controllers, appeared damaged at one side, according to pictures released by the agency.
On Wednesday, US authorities said new evidence showed similarities between the Ethiopia crash and that of a Lion Air flight in Indonesia in October that killed 189 people.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said findings from the crash site near Addis Ababa and “newly refined satellite data” warranted “further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents.”
According to the flight data recorder, the pilots of Lion Air Flight 610 struggled to control the aircraft as the MCAS repeatedly pushed the nose down following takeoff.
The Ethiopian Airlines pilots reported similar difficulties before their aircraft plunged to the ground.
Data from Air Traffic Communications
The captain of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 requested permission to return to Addis Ababa airport three minutes after takeoff as it accelerated to abnormal speed, the New York Times reported.
All contact between air controllers and Flight 302 to Nairobi was lost five minutes after it took off, a person who reviewed air traffic communications told the newspaper.
Within a minute of the flight’s departure, Captain Yared Getachew reported a “flight control” problem as the aircraft was well below the minimum safe height during a climb, the newspaper reported, citing the source.
“Break break, request back to home,” the Times quoted the pilot as saying just prior to the crash. “Request vector for landing.”
After being cleared by the control room to turn back, Flight 302 climbed to an unusually high altitude and disappeared from radar over a restricted military zone, the source added.
Boeing suspends delivery of 737 MAX jets
The world’s biggest plane maker, Boeing announced on Thursday it was suspending deliveries of its op-selling 737 MAX as French investigators took delivery of the black boxes from the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed all 157 passengers and crew.
“We are pausing the delivery of the 737 MAX until we come up with a solution,” a Boeing spokesman said, adding that “we are going to continue the production, but we are assessing our capacities.”
France’s BEA air safety agency confirmed it has received the black box recorders from the plane, which was just four months old and crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday.
Black boxes arrives in France, families angry at airline
Hours after France confirmed that it was available to analyze the black boxes from the crashed Ethiopian airline jet, investigators from Addis Ababa arrived in Paris with the boxes.
Work on the materials will be handled by the accident investigation agency, BEA. Ethiopian had on early Thursday confirmed that France had opted to help with the analysis.
The United States transport safety board have also sent three investigators to France to assist with the downloading and analysis of the information contained in the boxes.
The Washington-based NTSB is the federal agency that: “investigates accidents in aviation, highway, marine, rail & pipeline and makes recommendations to improve transportation safety for everyone.”
Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting about a standoff in Addis Ababa where families of victims stormed out of a meeting with the airline.
According to Maggie Fick, Reuters East Africa bureau chief: “The airline had called a meeting with families in a hotel in Addis Ababa but around 100 relatives walked out.”
They were protesting what they said was lack of timely information from the airline. Most of them had visited the crash site in Bishoftu to pay their respects to departed relations.
France accepts to analyze black box
France’s air accident investigation agency BEA will analyse black-box flight recorders from a Boeing 737 MAX 8 which crashed near Addis Ababa on Sunday, a spokesman said.
Ethiopian Airlines said earlier it would send the two cockpit voice and data recorders abroad for analysis.
The French announcement resolved uncertainty over the fate of the two recorders after Germany’s BFU said it had declined a request to handle them because it could not process the new type of recorder used on the 737 MAX jets, in service since 2017.
The BEA is one of the world’s most active air crash agencies alongside the National Transportation Safety Board of the United States and has laboratories at its Le Bourget headquarters.
US regulators orders Boeing to ground jets
Three days after the accident in Ethiopia and in the wake of global ‘blacklisting,’ the United States says the manufacturer will be ordered to ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 jets.
Industry experts had long speculated that it was only a matter of time before the US Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, made the order.
Boeing had in earlier statements stressed that it was not going to suspend
the production. It has said in a recent statement that it respected the FAA’s latest decision.
Foreign allies commiserate with Ethiopia – PM
Black boxes to be sent to Germany
Ethiopia lacks the forensic capabilities of other countries, a spokesman for Ethiopian Airlines said on Wednesday, explaining that the black box voice and data recorders recovered on Monday would be sent overseas for analysis.
What is the black box or flight recorder? It is basically an equipment that records information about the performance of an aircraft during flight.
“There is no capacity here so the black box will be sent elsewhere for analysis. The investigation team will decide where,” the spokesman told Reuters.
Reuters later confirmed that the European destination in question is Germany.
U.S. officials said the black box devices suffered some damage but they were confident of some initial results within 24 hours of the data being downloaded.
‘Ground all 737 MAX planes’: Ethiopian Airlines CEO
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told the BBC on Wednesday, that he believes Boeing Co should ground all of its 737 MAX 8 jets until it is established that they are safe to fly.
Ethiopian Airlines on Monday grounded its remaining fleet of 4 737 MAX planes after Sunday’s fatal crash.
Several other airlines all over the world have grounded this model of the plane, citing similarities between the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash in October last year.
Spotlight on Boeing 737 MAX planes
In the aftermath of Sunday’s crash, which was the second involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8 within a space of six months, several airlines have grounded their fleets of the same plane model, while countries have banned the 737 MAX planes from operating in their airspaces.
Reuters calculations show that as of Wednesday morning, about two-thirds of the 371 Boeing 737 MAX planes operating in the world have been grounded.
Adding to the pressure on Boeing, Norwegian Air said it would seek recompense for lost revenue and extra costs after grounding its 737 MAX aircraft.
“We expect Boeing to take this bill,” Norwegian said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
With no link proven between the two crashes, however, the United States has bucked the trend and allowed 737 MAX planes to continue operating even though Europe has suspended them.
Of the top 10 countries by air passenger travel, all but the United States and Japan have halted flights of the 737 MAX. The EU, China, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, India and others have temporarily suspended the plane.
Boeing, the world’s biggest planemaker, has said it retains “full confidence” in the 737 MAX. Its shares fell 6.1 percent on Tuesday, bringing losses to 11.15 percent since the crash, the steepest two-day loss for the stock since July 2009.
The drop has lopped $26.65 billion off Boeing’s market value.
Airline CEO visits Addis Ababa’s Bole Int’l Airport
CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, paid a visit to the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. Operations were continuing as normal with workers and passengers going through their usual routines.
Gebremariam was very much in the forefront of events on March 10 when the incident occured.
Visiting the accident site and later giving a press conference to update the general public on the extent of the accident at the time.
One photo that became defining during his visit showed him holding a part of the crashed plane at the site. It was Bulletin No. 2 in which the airline confirmed that all aboard the ET 320 had perished.
Boeing team joins investigators
Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the plane crash in Bishoftu on Sunday, there are local and international experts involved in the process, reports have suggested.
Aircraft manufacturing company Boeing, announced a technical team which has since arrived on site of the Ethiopian Airlines flight that killed 157 people to provide technical assistance.
Boeing team in Ethiopia to provide assistance
Ethiopia appreciates global solidarity
The Prime Minister’s office on Monday sent out one message on social media in relation to the incident of 24-hours prior.
And it was a message of appreciation for the global solidarity that Ethiopia – government and airline got. Most of the messages of support were posted on Twitter aside the likely flooding in of diplomatic cables.
The PM’s message read: “On behalf of the FDRE Government, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed expresses his gratitude to world leaders and the international community for their messages of condolence and support in our time of mourning all the precious lives we lost aboard ET 302.”
Black box retrieved from crash site
A key technical part of the plane, the black box, was retrieved by a search and rescue team that was dispatched to the site hours after the incident.
What is the black box or flight recorder? It is basically an equipment that records information about the performance of an aircraft during flight.
It is usually a very key component to getting to know the likely cause of the accident. Ethiopian confirmed that both parts had been retrieved: “The Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of ET302 have been Recovered.”
PHOTOS: Search and rescue mission on site
There is a coordinated local and international response on the ground to help uncover the mystery that led to 157 lives perishing in a swoop.
The Airline and other responsible state outfits like the Federal Police and Transport Bureaus have been joined by experts from across the world, from the Kenya, South Africa, United States, Israel and INTERPOL among others. Manufacturer Boeing also is an integral part of the team.
Who are the victims?
A key plank of reportage on accidents in recent times is a focus on the victims, even perpetrators.
Social media in part did a great job of helping get profiles of victims a announcements were routinely made by families or employers.
Some governments also named their nationals via social media as was the case with Russia, Nigeria.
Read more about the victims on: Euronews, our France-based sister channel
Strong defence for Ethiopian’s safety record
The accident thrust the issue of flight safety to the fore. The figures show that the carrier had an impeccable safety record with industry players and people on social media mounting a robust defence.
One of the earliest to give Ethiopian a pass mark was Alex Macheras, who has since Saturday been busy giving perspectives to multiple media outlets regarding the ET302.
Here were his initial comments very early on:
The Boeing 737 MAX8 – multi-pronged pressure
Boeing and maybe insurers of Ethiopian Airlines will be one of the most concerned entities in these times. The manufacturer has been under serial pressure in the wake of the crash.
Its shares have plummeted but more worrying is the impact on continued usage of the particular jets. Close to a dozen carriers – Ethiopian being the first – have grounded all their 737 Max8 jets.
It turns out that it is the second deadly crash involving the same make of plane in five months. The first was when a Lion Air flight also crashed and claimed lives in October 2018.
Read more about the Boeing 737 Max8 Aircrafts
Previous fatal accidents by Ethiopian Airline
In 2010, its passenger jet crashed into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after taking off from Beirut. 90 people were lost in the incident.
In 1996, 123 out of 175 persons on board a flight were killed after its plane was hijacked. One of the engines stopped when the flight run out of fuel.
An attempt at emergency water landing led the plane to hit a coral reef resulting in the losses.
Back in 1988, a departing plane struck a flock of pigeons and crash-landed as it returned towards the airport. 31 lives were lost.
In effect the March 10 accident becomes the worst in the company’s 74-years of operation. It was founded by Emperor Haile Selassie and is one of the crown jewels of the economy.
PHOTOS: Memorial service in Addis Ababa
The Ethiopian government declared a day of mourning on Monday, it was observed with flag flying at half-mast.
Solemn and sombre moods were also captured in Addis Ababa where friends, family and acquaintances even strangers gathered to observe a memorial.
Tears, emotions and shared grief enveloped the venue. Same was the case over in Nairobi at the opening of the UN conference as a minute silence was observed in memory of the departed.
The quality of information flow: govt and airline
Social media proved decisive in the wake of the Ethiopian Airline crash of March 10, 2019; as government through the Prime Minister’s office and the airline coordinated official response with disarming effect.
By close of day, the two entities had issued just about a dozen messages on Twitter but the content these messages carried were enough to fully inform of and assure of appropriate measures going forward.
The PM’s office issued three tweets in all against the Airline’s seven yet the media had seemingly been given enough on the incident by close of day March 10.
African, world leaders send condolences
On Sunday, March 10, 2019; African leaders united – this time not with the usual words of electoral congratulations or condemnation of terrorism but more over words of commiseration and brotherly support in a hard time.
This was after the Addis Ababa – Nairobi flight crashed in the early hours of Sunday morning. The incident had become the biggest global news item of the day – by a stretch.
The death toll had Kenya topping as the most affected nation with 32 citizens overall. Other African nations lost citizens as did the United States, Canada, Slovakia etc.
Here are tweets from some African and world leaders:
The departure point and destination of ET302
The basic facts are as follows: The flight had left the Bole International Airport in the capital Addis Ababa. It was heading for the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Why Addis Ababa and Nairobi: In the wake of Ethiopians rise and rise as Africa’s biggest carrier, the Bole International Airport plays a crucial role as hub from where most Ethiopia flights connect with the world.
Nairobi on the other hand hosts the United Nation’s biggest office in Africa. It is also a big conference destination and was billed to host the UN environment confab.
How long did the flight last, where did it crash and casualty list
It crashed only six minutes after take-off in the town of Bishoftu in Oromia region. Hours on, it was confirmed that all passengers (149) and crew (8) were killed in the incident.
A melange of passengers were aboard the flight – from humanitarian workers to professionals on their way to a United Nations Environment summit holding in Nairobi.
Since then the following issues have come up: identification and naming of victims, plane manufacturer Boeing under multi-pronged pressure, the world continues to solidarize with Ethiopia and all affected.
POEM: Travel gathered 157 lives, death swooped
Plans, dreams, aspirations, hopes and emotions plunged in Ethiopia
Over 30 nationalities united in a passenger flight hoping to reach
But reach they did not when the flight returned and “buried” them
The grief that tears through the world sears the hearts of millions
Despite loss of 157, it’s clear millions are hit – directly, indirectly
The ultimate leveller in all of this is the non-discriminator – death
The plane had arrived from South Africa and was passed fit to go
It won’t make it to Nairobi, the next stop, and none aboard made it
It crashed six-minutes after take-off, try as pilot did to return to base
In town of Bishoftu, Oromia region – Ethiopia’s biggest, most populous
Not the white or black
Not the rich or poor
Not the adult or child
Not the educated or illiterate
Not the tourist or official
Not the young or old
Not the father or child
Not the pilot or the passenger
Not the Muslim or Christian
Not the believer of atheist
Not the first or last to board
Not the first-timer of frequent flier
Not the economy or business class
Not the ordinary or the UN passport holder
The plane was evaluated and passed – it fell
The pilot attempted to return – it wasn’t to be
The people’d wished they weren’t aboard – they were
Some’d prayed for a safe flight – but death came
The safety procedures were given – didn’t count
Some’d been wished safe flight – didn’t happen
Travel gathered them in one place – death swooped
The passengers, plane, belongings – all gone
Captain with 8000 hours flying time – does death care?
The friends, family, Africa and the world – mourns
Same day other Ethiopian flights safely landed – fact
This day people will reconsider Ethiopian – human nature
Others will not blink and get aboard – accidents happen
May the “lessons” of March 10 save lives – legacy
About Ethiopian – Africa’s aviation leader
The airline currently flies to over 50 African cities in what is the largest network by a national carrier. It is also in talks to help about a dozen African countries to establish and manage their carriers.
Ethiopian – a member of the Star Alliance group in its seven decades of operation has become one of the continent’s leading carriers in terms of efficiency and operational success.
They command the lion’s share of the pan-African passenger and cargo network operating the youngest and most modern fleet to 95 international destinations across five continents.
It is the first African operator to take delivery of the Boeing 787-9 dreamliner. Its operations have transformed the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa into a continental hub.