No cause has yet been identified in the Ethiopian Airlines ET302 disaster, but concerns grew this week based on similarities to the October 29, 2019, fatal accident involving a MAX 8 (flight JT610) operated by Lion Air, in which 187 people died. With the investigation into the Ethiopian Airlines 302 disaster ongoing, no connection has been made between the two flights.
“The tragic accident of the Ethiopian flight that occurred a few days ago has really touched the hearts of many Canadians. Not only because it was such a tragic accident, 157 people lost their lives, but also 18 were Canadians,” said Garneau, as he opened today’s press conference. “It has driven things home to us in a very personal way… this was a great loss for our country.”
RELATED: Eighteen Canadians dead in Ethiopian Airlines 302 crash
Garneau then issued a Transport Canada safety notice to suspend the operation of Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft in Canadian aerospace, which includes international operators of the aircraft and domestic operators Air Canada, Sunwing Airlines and WestJet.
“As a result of new data that we received this morning and had the chance to analyze, and on the advice of my experts and as a precautionary measure, I am issuing a safety notice,” continued Garneau. “This safety notice restricts commercial passenger flights from any operator of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 or MAX 9 variant aircraft, whether domestic or foreign, from arriving, departing or overflying Canadian airspace.”
Garneau explained, that shortly after the ET302 accident, he convened a panel of Transport Canada civil aviation experts who consulted with the industry, international partners, and those actually flying the 737 MAX to conduct an assessment. “The advice they have provided is based on the information that they have been receiving. The requirements for new procedures and training for Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 flight crews, that we have already put in place here in Canada,” he said.
Investigations into the Lion Air crash focused on the 737 MAX anti-stall system, designed to prevent a plane from pointing upward at too high of a rate and angle, creating issues with measuring air speed and altitude. “The angle-of-attack sensor was faulty on the Indonesian flight [JT610] and essentially gave the impression that the nose was too high,” explained Garneau this morning, noting the software, called MCAS, and pilot countered each other more than once just moments before the JT610 accident.
Garneau also noted the development of software fix in relation to MCAS was put into motion after Lion Air investigation, which is likely to be put into place by all 737 MAX operators in the coming weeks. He again urged caution in connecting the causes of the two accidents, even as Transport Canada felt the new information it used to issue the suspension of the 737 MAX in Canadian airspace crossed a safety threshold.
“[The] new information that we received and analyzed this morning comes from validated satellite-tracking data, suggesting a possible, although unproven similarity in the flight profile of the Lion Air aircraft,” said Garneau, “And I caution that this new information is not conclusive and we must wait [for] further evidence.”
Garneau continued to describe the satellite-tracking data analyzed this morning, which is commonly collected when aircraft take off to provide the course of flight and also an aircraft’s vertical profile, as well as any fluctuations in that vertical profile. “My experts have looked at this and compared it to the flight that occurred with Lion Air six months ago in October; and there are, and I hasten to say not conclusive, but there are similarities that exceed a certain threshold in our minds with respect to the possible cause of what happened in Ethiopia… and that is why we’re taking these measures,” he said.
Transport Canada has been in close communication this morning with Canada’s 787 MAX operators about the safety notice, noting there was “no push back” because they realize the importance of these safety measures. Transport Canada also communicated its decision this morning with the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which on March 12 issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification for the Boeing 737 MAX.
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“My departmental officials continue to monitor the situation and work with international partners, including the investigation agencies and certifying authorities, to establish the conditions for the safe return to service,” said Garneau. “I will not hesitate to take swift action should we discover any additional safety issues. Canadians expect and are entitled to a safe transportation system today and for the future. I want them to be able to fly with confidence.”
Preliminary reports indicate the Boeing 737 MAX 8, which had flown into Addis Ababa Sunday morning as flight ET858, from Johannesburg, suffered a catastrophic result less than seven minutes into flight 302, after the captain asked for permission from control to turn back.
Flight 302 was heading to Nairobi, Kenya. A statement from Ethiopian Airlines following the disaster indicates 18 Canadians were on board the flight. Canada by nationality would represent the second highest number of deceased in the disaster, following 35 people from Kenya.
RELATED: Transport authorities ground 737 MAX
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement on Sunday, in part: “I am deeply saddened by the terrible plane crash today near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia... On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our heartfelt condolences to those who have lost family, friends, and loved ones as a result of this tragedy. While the causes of the crash continue to be investigated, the safety and security of all Canadians remains our primary concern.”
People from approximately 35 nationalities perished, according to Ethiopian Airlines, including: 9 from Ethiopia, 8 China, 8 Italy, 8 USA, 7 France, 7 UK, 6 Egypt, 5 Germany, 4 India, 4 Slovakia, 3 Austria, 3 Russia, 3 Sweden, 2 Spain, 2 Israel, 2 Morocco, 2 Poland, and 17 additional people each representing different countries.
This is the second Boeing 737 MAX 8 fatal crash is less than six months, after Lion Air flight Lion Air flight JT610 departed Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, and went down on October 29, 2018, killing all 189 people on board. Flight JT610 crashed minutes after take-off. The BBC, focusing on a November 2018 report about the Lion Air incident, quotes Nurcahyo Utomo, aviation head at the National Transport Safety Committee, as saying, “Several problems occurred simultaneously [during flight JT610].”
No cause has been identified in the Ethiopian Airlines 302 disaster, which will involve a range of investigations and aviation authorities into a myriad of possible causes, and no links can be made between the two crashes at this time.
The 737 MAX was introduced in 2017 with Malindo Air as a fourth-generation platform of Boeing’s narrow-body, short-to-medium range airliner. In addition to a range of upgrades from even Boeing's third-generation 3-7, the 737 MAX features new engines, wings and avionics. It is built in four variants, including: the 149-seat 737 MAX7, 189-seat MAX8, 200-seat MAX200, and 220-seat MAX9.
Boeing released the following statement following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302: “Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team. A Boeing technical team will be travelling to the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.”
The NTSB, later Sunday, noted it is sending a team of four to support the Ethiopian Accident Investigations Bureau's investigation of the ET302 crash, with assistance to come from technical advisers with FAA, Boeing and GE.
Scheduled for 2:49 am early Saturday morning, March 2, NASA plans to launch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Capsule, a significant step in the developing partnerships between the United States government, through NASA, and commercial enterprises to send humans into space.
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