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Ethiopian Max Crash Report Made False Claims on Plane, US Says

Alan Levin

BISHOFTU, ETHIOPIA – MARCH 12: Forensics investigators and recovery teams collect personal effects and other materials from the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 on March 12, 2019 in Bishoftu, Ethiopia. All 157 passengers and crew perished after the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 Flight came down six minutes after taking off from Bole Airport in Addis Ababa. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images) , Photographer: Jemal Countess/Getty Images Europe

(Bloomberg) — Ethiopian investigators’ report into the Boeing Co. 737 Max crash outside Addis Ababa in 2019 falsely claimed the jetliner had an electrical failure, the US government said, in a highly unusual public rebuttal of the nation’s findings about the fatal accident.

The US National Transportation Safety Board accused the Ethiopian Accident Investigation Bureau of making claims “unsupported by evidence” in conclusions belatedly published late last year.   

“The final report does not provide any details to support the EAIB’s statements about the existence of an electrical problem,” the NTSB wrote on Tuesday. 

US investigators said they agreed generally with Ethiopia’s findings that a flawed design in the 737 Max pushed the nose down automatically and was at least part of the cause of the March 10, 2019 crash that killed 157 people. It was the second fatal accident involving the model in a matter of months and led to its worldwide grounding, billions of dollars in losses to Boeing and multiple investigations.

Numerous Factors  

But the Ethiopians ignored numerous other factors, the NTSB said. In particular, the Ethiopian Airlines Group crew had been told how to counteract a failure of the flawed software known as Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, after a crash off the coast of Indonesia about four months earlier. But they failed to follow the procedure, the NTSB said. 

Amdeye Fenta, chief of the Ethiopian AIB, said the group is preparing a response. 

The dissenting opinion comes several weeks after the crash report was released because Ethiopian officials didn’t share it with the NTSB before announcing their findings. That is required under the international treaty governing crash investigations, the US agency said. 

The US previously issued a scathing release on Dec. 27 saying the Ethiopian report contained numerous false statements, ignored critical parts of the cause and repeatedly failed to explore safety issues such as pilot training that might prevent such events in the future. 

‘Unexplained Faults’

The Ethiopian report said “unexplained electrical and electronic faults” and “production quality defects” triggered the underlying failure that began pushing down the nose. 

Yet no evidence of such electronic issues has ever been found and Ethiopian officials were repeatedly told that, the NTSB said. 

Instead, the failure was most likely triggered by an impact with a bird just as the plane lifted off, the NTSB said. That and another jet’s impact with a bird at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport raised safety concerns that were ignored, the US said. 

Ethiopian investigators didn’t look for bird remains or other evidence of such a collision until eight days after the accident and never bothered to look in the area of the runway where the impact occurred, the NTSB said. 

–With assistance from Fasika Tadesse.

Source: Bloomberg

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