Boeing 737 Max: Ethiopian Airlines boss rejects US blame on pilots

Simon Calder


The boss of Ethiopian Airlines has rejected American accusations that pilots were partly to blame for the fatal crash of a Boeing 737 Max.

Flight ET302 crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa on a journey to Nairobi on 10 March 2019. All 157 people died when the plane plunged into the ground;

The anti-stall system known as MCAS has been implicated. In some circumstances it forces the nose of the aircraft down. The system was triggered by a faulty sensor and defeated the pilots’ efforts to override it.

It was the second Boeing 737 Max to crash in five months; in October 2018 a Lion Air aircraft was lost in similar circumstances soon after it left Jakarta airport in Indonesia, with 189 deaths.

The preliminary report into the Ethiopian Airlines crash said that the pilots followed the correct procedures.

But on 16 May Congressman Sam Graves, himself a pilot, told lawmakers that pilot error was a factor in both crashes.

“Airlines have to make sure their pilots are sufficiently trained and experienced.

“Pilots trained in the United States would have successfully been able to handle this situation.”

But Tewolde GebreMariam, chief executive of Ethiopian Airlines, told the BBC: “The whole world knows the standards of Ethiopian Airlines and they know what happened.

“That’s why we have not seen any significant impact on our business. Our traffic crew by 7 per cent in March [the month of the crash], by another 10 per cent in April, the same in May. Our flights are full.

“Why on earth have they grounded 380 aircraft all over the world? The facts speak to themselves.”

The planemaker has acknowledged that there were flaws in the anti-stall software. It said: “Boeing engineers and test pilots are working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration and international regulatory authorities to develop, test and certify updates to the 737 Max to help ensure MCAS never contributes to an accident again.”

The worldwide grounding that followed the Ethiopian Airlines crash is expected to continue for several months.

Airlines including Ryanair, TUI Airways and Norwegian are facing problems covering for the gaps in their fleets caused by the absence of the Boeing 737 Max.

Congressman Graves also claimed: “The US aviation system is the world’s safest.”

In fact, Ireland and the UK are the domains for the world’s safest airlines, Ryanair and easyJet.