Investigators say their preliminary findings into what went wrong with Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, which crashed outside of Addis Ababa with 157 people on board on March 10, suggest that a suspect feature in the Boeing 737 MAX8 was automatically activated before the plane nose-dived to the ground.
That’s according to information from a Federal Aviation Administration briefing in the United States on Thursday, reported by the Wall Street Journal.
It’s the same systems control feature that was implicated in the October 2018 crash of Lion Air Flight 610, which claimed the lives of all 189 people on board. That incident first drew attention to the Boeing Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), an autopilot software system that the pilots had little time to override and were unable to achieve.
On Wednesday, Boeing announced that 200 pilots, technical experts and government regulators were on hand as it rolled out software updates “to provide additional layers of protection if the AOA sensors provide erroneous data.”
The abbreviation refers to “angle of attack,” as measured by the MCAS system.
Work on the MCAS updates began after the Lion Air Flight 610 crash, but the upgrades were not yet available when the Flight ET302 crash occurred. Meanwhile, Boeing 737 MAX series aircraft remain grounded around the world pending the outcome of the ET302 investigation and Boeing response.
Ethiopian Airlines said it was aware of the new information and would respond shortly.
Image: Bole International Airport file