Crashed Ethiopian Airlines Jet’s Black Boxes Show Similarities to Lion Air Tragedy

The crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that killed 157 people had “clear similarities” with October’s Lion Air crash, Ethiopia said on Sunday, shown by initial analysis of the black boxes recovered from the wreckage of the March 10 disaster.

The crash has generated one of the most widely watched and high-stakes inquiries for years, with the latest version of Boeing’s profitable 737 workhorse depending on the outcome.

Both planes were MAX 8s, and both crashed minutes post take-off after pilots reported flight control problems. Concern over the plane’s safety led aviation authorities to ground the model, wiping billions of dollars off Boeing’s market value.

“It was the same case with the Indonesian (Lion Air) one. There were clear similarities between the two crashes so far,” Ethiopian transport ministry spokesman Muse Yiheyis said.

“The data was successfully recovered. Both the American team and our (Ethiopian) team validated it,” he told Reuters, adding that the ministry would provide more information after three or four days.

In Washington, however, U.S. officials told Reuters the FAA and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had not yet validated the data.

Boeing’s safety analysis of a new flight control system known as MCAS on MAX jets had several crucial flaws, one of which was that it understated the power of the system, the Seattle Times said on Sunday.

The FAA also did not delve in detailed inquiries and followed a standard certification process on the MAX, the paper said, citing an FAA spokesman.

The FAA declined to comment on the report but referred to previous statements about the certification process. It has said the process followed FAA’s standard process.

Citing people familiar with the inquiry, the Wall Street Journal said Department of Transportation officials are scrutinizing the FAA’s approval of MAX jets and a Washington, D.C. grand jury issued a subpoena to at least one person involved in the MAX’s development.

The subpoena dated March 11 – a day after the Ethiopian Airlines crash – listed as a contact a prosecutor from the Justice Department’s (DoJ) criminal division and sought documents to be handed over later this month, the paper said.

It was not immediately clear whether the DoJ subpoena was related to the DoT’s inquiry, which focuses on MCAS, implicated in the Lion Air crash that killed 189 people, the WSJ added.

SOURCE: Reuters, by Maggie Fick, David Shepardson