Live Updates: Ethiopia Recovers Boeing Jet’s Data and Voice Recorders
• The newest version of Boeing’s most popular jet is under scrutiny after a deadly crash on Sunday, leading 22 airlines around the world to ground their 737 Max 8 planes. But at least 12 other carriers, including American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, which are heavy users of the Max 8, were continuing to fly them.
• Investigators have not determined the cause of the crash, but the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder have both been recovered, Ethiopian Airlines said. Some of the circumstances of the crash were similar to one in October in Indonesia that killed 189 people.
• The pilot sent out a distress call before the crash, which killed all 157 people aboard. The victims were from more than 35 countries and included at least 22 employees of United Nations-affiliated agencies.
• The questions go to the heart of Boeing’s business: The 737 Max is its best-selling model. Boeing shares fell more than 12 percent in early trading on Monday.
China and Indonesia ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft
China and Indonesia ordered their airlines on Monday to ground all of the aircraft that they operate.
The Indonesian Transport Ministry on Monday called for the temporary grounding of all Boeing 737 Max 8 planes operated by Indonesian carriers, following the fatal accidents involving two new aircraft of that model.
The first accident came in October, when a Lion Air flight crashed in Indonesia, minutes after an erratic takeoff. On Sunday, an Ethiopian Airlines flight went down with 157 people on board, shortly after leaving Bole Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with an unstable trajectory.
After Lion Air Flight 610 nose-dived into the sea shortly after taking off from the airport in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, killing all 189 people on board, the Transport Ministry grounded all Max 8s operating in the country. But after inspections were conducted last November, the planes were declared safe to fly.
Indonesian and American aviation authorities have raised the possibility that Flight 610’s crash was because of pilots fighting an automated anti-stall software in the Max model that may have been erroneously activated by incorrect flight data.
The announcement in Indonesia came after the Chinese aviation regulator said that it had notified Chinese air carriers they had until 6 p.m. local time to take the planes out of service.
China’s main airlines are among the biggest users so far of the new Boeing jets, having taken delivery of most of the planes they have ordered. By contrast, many other carriers, often in slower-growing markets than China’s, have taken delivery of only a small fraction of their orders for the Boeing 737 Max 8.
On a commercial level, China’s aviation sector could benefit from the tragedies in Ethiopia and Indonesia. A government-owned company has developed an alternative to the Boeing 737, called the Comac C919, but has so far struggled to find major buyers outside China. Airlines have expressed concerns about fuel efficiency and safety issues, including how willing Chinese regulators would be to share information about accidents.
Ethiopian Airlines takes 737 Max planes out of operation
Ethiopian Airlines officials said on Monday they would ground all Boeing 737 Max planes in their country following the crash on Sunday of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.
The airline has five Boeing 737 Max planes in its fleet, but it was unclear how many are model 8 jets.
The plane that crashed was flying between Addis Ababa and Nairobi, Kenya.
Also on Monday, Cayman Airways said it was temporarily grounding its two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes.
After crash, U.N. assembly opens on a somber note
United Nations official said Monday that at least 22 of the organization’s staff members had died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash a day earlier, among the 157 people killed en route to Nairobi.
Addressing delegates at the opening of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, the official, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, cited “initial information” for the figure and said the final numbers and details had not been released by the airline.
Ms. Sharif added that nationals of more than 30 countries had been on the airplane, including from Kenya, Canada, Ethiopia, China, the United States and Britain.
“I want to assure you all that as the day and week unfold, and the world’s global environmental leaders meet to discuss the future of our planet, we will not forget this tragedy,” she said.
More than 4,700 ministers, business leaders, senior United Nations officials and heads of state — including President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and President Emmanuel Macron of France — are expected to gather this week in Nairobi for the environment meeting, where they will discuss plans to contend with climate change and to create more sustainable societies.
Thousands of delegates at the meeting on Monday observed a moment of silence to remember the victims of the crash, and the United Nations flag at its office in Nairobi flew at half-staff.
In early breakthrough, data boxes are recovered
In what could hasten the determination of what caused the crash, the flight data and cockpit voice recorders of Flight 302 were recovered, Ethiopian Airlines said on Monday.
The two recorders will need to be taken to a specialized center to read their data, said Lynnette Dray, an aviation expert and senior research associate at University College London.
“If the boxes are intact, then they will be able to take the data off them and look at it immediately,” Dr. Dray said.
But if they are dented or burned, the data might not be easily extractable.
“They might need to decontaminate them, or adjust smoke components first,” she said.
Dr. Dray said the two recorders would be treated slightly differently. Some of the flight data, which generally includes information about speed, air pressure and other details, might already be known to investigators. But the cockpit voice recorder, which captures anything that might have been said or heard by the captain and co-pilot, can be more revealing — and more sensitive, Dr. Dray said.
Usually, a committee is assembled to review the recordings, she said, and both sets of data will most likely be cited in a final report about what went wrong. But the two recorders are just part of the evidence.“This is just one strand of the investigation — there are lots of strands,” Dr. Dray said. It could be more than a year before the final report is released, she added.
Plane was smoking and swerving before crash, witnesses say
An eyewitness described watching Flight 302 “swerving and dipping” before crashing outside Addis Ababa on Sunday.
“I was in the mountain nearby when I saw the plane reach the mountain before turning around with a lot of smoke coming from the back and then crashed at this site,” Gebeyehu Fikadu, 25, told CNN.
“It crashed with a large boom. When it crashed luggage and clothes came burning down,” he told the network. “Before it crashed the plane was swerving and dipping with a lot of smoke coming from the back and also making a very loud unpleasant sound before hitting the ground.”
Other witnesses told state television that they had heard an unusual sound before the plane came hurtling down, and that the plane had gained some altitude right before it hit the ground and disintegrated — an assessment that was consistent with data released on Sunday by the flight-tracking site FlightRadar24.
Co-pilot’s lack of experience draws attention
Ethiopian Airlines said after the crash that the pilot of Flight 302, Yared Getachew, had 8,000 hours of flying time, but aviation experts were drawn to the paucity of experience on the part of someone else in the cockpit: the co-pilot, Ahmed Nur Mohammod Nur, who had just 200 hours.
Peter Marosszeky, a former executive and aircraft engineer at Qantas Airways, Pan Am and American Airlines who has advised Boeing on its 747 and 777 programs, said that pilots and co-pilots of large commercial aircraft should have thousands of hours of flight time.
“The 200 is obviously ridiculously low,” Mr. Marosszeky said. He noted that in Australia, where he now lives and works as an aviation consultant, the minimum experience to obtain an unrestricted flying license for a small personal plane is 155 hours of flight time.
Mr. Marosszeky acknowledged that the number of hours of flying time that a pilot or co-pilot has logged is often not the most important variable. What really counts, he said, is the extent to which a pilot or co-pilot is trained on the plane he or she is operating.
“There have been cases where the pilot has 20,000 hours, and he crashed the airplane because he wasn’t trained properly,” Mr. Marosszeky said.
Several carriers stick by Boeing — for now
Several airlines indicated on Monday that they would not ground their Boeing 737 Max jets, or, in some cases, had no plans to cancel orders.
SpiceJet, a low-cost Indian airline, said that it will continue flying the planes while it awaits guidance from Indian air safety regulators.
The airline has 13 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes it uses for international and domestic flights and has more than 100 on order.
Jet Airways, another Indian carrier, said that it had five Max 8 models in its fleet but that it was not currently flying any of them. The airline is in severe financial distress, and at least one-third of its aircraft have been grounded because of lack of funds or repossession by lessors.
In South Korea, Eastar Jet, which operates two Max 8 planes, said it had no plans to ground the jets.
Fiji Airways said it would keep flying its two Max 8 planes and had full confidence in their airworthiness. Comair, a South African airline, said it would continue to fly its one Max 8, and FlyDubai said it would continue to operate its 11 Max 8 planes.
And SilkAir, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, said that it would keep its six 737 Max 8 planes in the air.
Victims of crash came from around the world
The pilot sent out a distress call and was cleared to return to the airport before Sunday’s crash, which killed all 157 people aboard. The victims were from more than 35 countries and included at least 22 employees of United Nations-affiliated agencies.
A list of the dead released by Ethiopian Airlines included passengers from China, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Israel, India and Somalia. Kenya lost 32 citizens. Canada lost 18.
The flight was traveling from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. Many of the passengers worked for the United Nations and were set to attend a conference on the environment in Nairobi on Monday.
Boeing shares slump
It’s likely to be a rough day for Boeing on Wall Street. The company’s shares fell more than 12 percent shortly after trading opened on Monday.
Whatever hit Boeing’s shares take will weigh heavily on the Dow Jones industrial average, which in recent years has been lifted by Boeing’s success.
Shares of Boeing have tripled since the presidential election in 2016, making it the highest-priced stock in the Dow. From Nov. 8, 2016, through Friday, the Dow added more than 7,000 points, and Boeing’s rise accounted for nearly 30 percent of its gain.
Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst at the Teal Group, cautioned against reading too much into the immediate reaction in Boeing’s shares. “I’ve learned from bitter experience not to look at the stock prices in the aftermath of a crash,” he said. “It’s just all over the place.” Mr. Aboulafia also predicted that any pullback was likely to be a short dip, given the company’s recent strength.
At the close of trading on Friday, Boeing was valued at nearly $239 billion, with a stock price above $422 a share. The company, which employs about 150,000 people, took in just over $100 billion in 2018, with profit for the year topping $10 billion.