Ethiopian Airlines pilots followed proper procedures when their Boeing MAX 8 airplane repeatedly nosedived before a March 10 crash that killed 157 people, Ethiopia’s minister of transport said on Thursday as she delivered the first official report on the disaster.
“The crew performed all the procedures repeatedly provided by the manufacturer but was not able to control the aircraft,” Dagmawit Moges told a news conference in the capital, Addis Ababa.
In line with international rules on air accidents, the preliminary report did not attribute blame. Nor did it give a detailed analysis of the flight, which is expected to take several months before a final report due within a year.
But in a clear indication of where Ethiopian investigators are focusing most of their attention, the report cleared the pilots of using incorrect procedures and issued two recommendations directed at planemaker Boeing and regulators.
It suggested that Boeing review the aircraft control system and aviation authorities confirm the problem had been solved before allowing that model of plane back into the air. It was grounded globally following the crash, which was the second deadly accident in six months involving the new model after a Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October that killed 189 people.
“Since repetitive uncommanded aircraft nose down conditions are noticed … it is recommend that the aircraft control system shall be reviewed by the manufacturer,” Moges said.
Ethiopian Airlines said its crew had followed all the correct guidance to handle a difficult emergency.
However, the report could spark a debate with Boeing about how crew responded to problems triggered by faulty data from an airflow sensor, particularly over whether they steadied the plane before turning key software off.
Boeing said it would study the report.
Families of the victims, regulators and travellers around the world are waiting for clues to the accident after the new Boeing jet crashed six minutes after take-off.
The preliminary report into the Lion Air disaster said the pilots lost control after grappling with the plane’s Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software, a new automated anti-stall feature that repeatedly lowered the nose of the aircraft based on faulty data from a sensor.
Boeing said on Wednesday it had successfully tested an update of the MCAS software designed to reduce its authority and make it easer for pilots to handle.