*Experts raise concerns over Aircraft type
A Nigerian, yet unidentified, is one of the 157 victims of the ill-fated Ethiopia Airlines ET302, operated by Boeing B737-800MAX, which crashed early Sunday morning on its way from Addis Ababa to Nairobi.
Ethiopia Airlines Group CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam, who arrived the site of the crash few hours after the accident at Bishoftu, 62 kilometres southeast of the capital Addis Ababa, confirmed there were no survivors and expressed his profound sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of passengers and crew who lost lives in the tragic incident.
The flight had 149 passengers; eight crew on board and the passengers have been traced to about 35 countries.
Gebremariam said pilots reported difficulties and asked for permission to turn back to Addis Ababa, but indications show that the flight crew could not make the air return, hence the crash.
The flight left Bole airport in Addis Ababa at 8. 38am (about 10.38 am Nigerian time), before losing contact with the control tower just a few minutes later at 8.44am.
Nationalities onboard include Kenyan 32, Canadians 18, Ethiopians 9, USA 8, Chinese 8, Nigerian 1, seven British citizens, seven France, six Egyptians, five Netherlands, four passengers carrying UN passports and four Indians.
Other passengers are from Russia, Morocco, Israel, Uganda, Yemen, Sudan, Togo, Mozambique, and Norway.
Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, tweeted, ” I would like to express its deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning.”
In a press conference held at Ethiopian Airlines Headquarters Sunday afternoon regarding the crash, Gebremaria, remarked, “It is too early to speculate the cause of the accident and further investigation will be carried out to find out the cause of the accident in collaboration with all stakeholders including the aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and other international entities to maintain the international standard and information will be provided once the cause is identified. Ethiopian Airlines will provide all the necessary support to the families of the victims.”
It was disclosed at the conference that a senior captain named Yared Getachew with a cumulative flight hour of more than 8000 and with a commendable performance was commanding the flight along with first officer Ahmed Nur Mohammod Nur who had a flight hour of 200. 149 passengers and eight crew members were on board the flight. The victims were of 35 Nationalities.
The crashed B-737-800MAX airplane flew back to Addis from Johannesburg early Sunday morning to its yet another flight bound to Nairobi underwent rigorous first check maintenance, the airline said.
This is the second fatal accident involving Boeing 737MAX in less than five months, but the two should be linked just yet.
About six months ago, a Lion Air Flight 610 operated by Boeing 737 MAX passenger plane with 189 people on board crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta on October 29, 2018.
The flight was a scheduled domestic flight operated by the Indonesian airline Lion Air from Soekarno–Hatta International Airport in Jakarta to Depati Amir Airport in Pangkal Pinang. On 29 October 2018, the brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 operating the route crashed into the Java Sea 12 minutes after takeoff.
All 189 passengers and crew were killed in the accident. It became the second deadliest airplane accident in Indonesia, only behind Garuda Indonesia Flight 152.
According to reports, this was the first major accident involving the 737 MAX and the deadliest involving a 737 aircraft surpassing Air India Express Flight 812 in 2010. It is also the worst accident for Lion Air in its 18-year history, surpassing the previous crash in Surakarta that killed 25.
Also speaking on Sunday morning to Al Jazeera from Malaga, Spain, aviation analyst, , Alex Macheras, explained that the B737 MAX is the brand new updated version of the Boeing 737.
“The MAX is in service all around the world. Airlines such as the Ethiopian Airlines are using this aircraft, as it is the latest, the most fuel-efficient, short-range Boeing aircraft on the market.
“The aircraft that has been involved in the accident today is less than four months old. It was delivered to Ethiopia in mid-November, when it flew from the US, made a fuel stop in Ireland, and was delivered to Addis Ababa, which is the hub of Ethiopian Airlines,” he added.
Macheras said new aircraft “do have their hiccups” but that is not to say they are unsafe or more prone to being involved in accidents.
“There are certain advisories for lots of new aircraft and that’s perfectly normal as they enter the market place,” he added.
The Boeing 737 MAX was initiated in response to Airbus’s A320 Neo. Both planes feature modifications to make the aircraft more fuel-efficient.
“It’s a very safe aircraft,” Macheras said, “but of course this accident will send jitters across the industry.”