Exclusive: High speed, then a failed climb for doomed Ethiopia flight

  • In Tech
  • 2019-03-17 05:47:33Z
  • By Reuters
Villagers walk past flowers set to commemorate the Ethiopian Airline Flight 302 victims that crashed near the town of Bishoftu
Villagers walk past flowers set to commemorate the Ethiopian Airline Flight 302 victims that crashed near the town of Bishoftu  

By Maggie Fick

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, which crashed killing 157 people, had an unusually high speed after take-off before the plane reported problems and asked permission to climb quickly, said a source who has listened to the air traffic control recording.

A voice from the cockpit of the Boeing 737 MAX requested to climb to 14,000 feet above sea level - about 6,400 feet above the airport - before urgently asking to return, the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity because the recording is part of an ongoing investigation.

The plane vanished from radar at 10,800 feet.

"He said he had a flight control problem. That is why he wanted to climb," the source said, adding there were no further details given of the exact problem and the voice sounded nervous.

Experts say pilots typically ask to climb when experiencing problems near the ground in order to gain margin for manoeuvre and avoid any difficult terrain. Addis Ababa is surrounded by hills and, immediately to the north, the Entoto Mountains.

The New York Times reported Captain Yared Getachew's voice was on the recording but the Reuters source was not familiar with his voice or that of the first officer Ahmed Nur Mohammod Nur to verify which man was speaking. However, it was the same voice throughout, the source said.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday followed other countries in grounding the 737 MAX, citing satellite data and evidence from the scene that indicated some similarities and "the possibility of a shared cause" with October's Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people.

On Saturday, investigators began studying the cockpit voice recorder. Along with the flight data recorder, the information will be evaluated by Ethiopian authorities, teams from Boeing, and U.S. and EU aviation safety authorities to try to determine the cause of the crash.


The Ethiopian flight was set to follow the Standard Instrument Departure (SID) from the airport and followed standard procedure with a first contact just after departure, the source said. Everything appeared normal.

After one or two minutes, the voice on the air traffic control recording requested to remain on the same path as the runway and to climb to 14,000 feet, the source said.

The aircraft's ground speed after departure was unusually high, the Reuters source said, reaching around 400 knots (460 miles per hour) rather than the 200 to 250 knots that is more typical minutes after departure.

"That is way too fast," the source said.

No more than two minutes later, the air traffic controller was in communication with other aircraft when the voice from Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 interrupted, saying "break, break" - signalling that other nonurgent communications should cease. He sounded very scared, the source said.

"He requested permission to return. Air traffic control granted him permission to turn on the right because to the left is the city," he said. "Maybe one minute passed before the blinking dot on the radar disappeared."

After starting the turn, the plane disappeared from radar at an altitude of 10,800 feet above sea level, the highest it reached during the six-minute flight. Addis Ababa's runway is at a high elevation of around 7,600 feet, suggesting the doomed jet made it about 3,000 feet into the sky.

Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 had data covering the first half of the flight but it dropped out at 8,600 feet.

Other satellite data tracking the plane has not been made available publicly. In the Lion Air crash, investigators are examining the behaviour of a new anti-stall system installed on the 737 MAX that led to the plane gaining and losing altitude as the pilots fought for control against the automated system.

Boeing is expected to finalise a software fix for that system within a week to 10 days, sources familiar with the matter said earlier on Saturday.

(Reporting by Maggie Fick; Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld, Jamie Freed, Tim Hepher; Editing by Leigh Thomas, Editing by William Maclean)


More Related News

Boeing CEO concedes
Boeing CEO concedes 'mistake' with planes in 2 fatal crashes
  • US
  • 2019-06-16 16:45:52Z

The chief executive of Boeing said the company made a "mistake" in handling a problematic cockpit warning system in its 737 Max jets before two crashes of the top-selling plane killed 346 people, and he promised transparency as the U.S. aircraft maker tries to get the grounded model back in flight. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told reporters in Paris that Boeing's communication with regulators, customers and the public "was not consistent. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has faulted Boeing for not telling regulators for more than year that a safety indicator in the Max cockpit didn't work.

CFM erases jet engine output delay, cautious on rate increases
CFM erases jet engine output delay, cautious on rate increases

CFM International has caught up with delays in deliveries of its LEAP jet engine after keeping its assembly lines running at high speed while the Boeing 737 MAX remains grounded, the French-American engine maker said on Saturday. The LEAP engine helped Boeing and European rival Airbus upgrade their most important single-aisle models, leading to the development of the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320neo, which is also powered by the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan. CFM officials said ahead of the Paris Airshow that the engine maker had been able to absorb earlier delays in production during the grounding of the 737 MAX.

Gathering clouds cast shadow over Paris Air Show
Gathering clouds cast shadow over Paris Air Show

Slumping orders, production bottlenecks, regulatory pressures and the prospect of fewer flyers: Aviation executives have plenty on their minds as they head to France on Monday for the opening of the Paris Air Show. While Airbus might claw back some ground with the launch of the A321XLR at the airshow in Le Bourget, just north of Paris, Boeing's future has been clouded by two deadly crashes that have grounded its popular 737 MAX. With the cancellations, "we're in negative territory for the year, and Airbus has a chance to rescue that a bit, but Boeing does not," said Richard Aboulafia, a longtime industry analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia.

Grounding of Boeing plane hovers over big air show in Paris
Grounding of Boeing plane hovers over big air show in Paris
  • World
  • 2019-06-14 20:53:59Z

Uncertainty over a Boeing jet and apprehension about the global economy hover over the aircraft industry as it prepares for next week's Paris Air Show. In recent boom years, they have become a stage for huge aircraft orders. The Boeing 737 Max has been grounded worldwide for three months after

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Tech

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.