Yared Getachew, Captain of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 that crashed in Ethiopia on 10th March 2019 killing all 157 people on-board requested permission to return to Addis Ababa airport three minutes after takeoff immediately after detecting a problem.
A source who reviewed air traffic communications told the newspaper that air traffic controllers lost all contact with the crew of Flight 302 five minutes after it took off.
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 from the ground during a climb, stated the source.
After being granted clearance from Air Traffic Control to turn back within three minutes of the flight, Flight 302 climbed to an unusually high altitude and disappeared from the radar over a restricted military zone, the source added.
Airline chief Tewolde GebreMariam said:
According to the air traffic controller’s recorded voice exchange, the pilot recorded flight control problems, so he was having difficulties with the flight control of the aeroplane. He asked to return back to base, and clearance was given to him. That was ar 8.44 am, at the same time the aeroplane disappeared from the radar,"
At this point in time, it is not easy to ascertain the specific flight control problems that the crew experienced prior to the crash.
The Airline chief emphasized that all employees were given new training following the Lion Air disaster six months ago, which saw another Boeing 737 Max 8 plunge to the ground in Indonesia. He stated that:
They’re both the same aeroplane model, brand new aeroplanes, and also the flights were very short.The fact that many other countries are also now raising cautions on the aeroplane shows there is very significant similarities (between) the two accidents. There are a lot of questions to be answered on the aeroplane.”
The Airline Chief said Mr Gatechew was a “commendable” pilot with an excellent flying record who had clocked up more than 8000 flight hours. His first officer Ahmed Nur Mohammod Nur was equally experienced and it is a loss of immeasurable proportions.
Boeing has since paused deliveries of its 737 MAX aircraft to customers in the wake of the deadly crash.
Given the fact that the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) commonly known as the black boxes only just arrived in France for analysis on Thursday morning for inspection by the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA), the French equivalent of the UK's Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB), it is too early to draw conclusions that the cause of this particular crash is the same as that of the Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October last year.
The investigation is still in its initial stages with Ethiopian, American, and French investigators working on the ground to understand why Flight 302 crashed. With renewed interest in the similarities between Flight 302 and Lion Air given that both flights were using Boeing 737 Max 8, prudence dictates allowing the air accident investigation team(s) involved to analyse the black boxes and determine what really brought Flight 302 down.
Header image credit: Kompas International