Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX Crashes, 159 Dead

Filed Under: Ethiopian

What terrible news to wake up to this Sunday morning.

Today’s Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed shortly after takeoff. It crashed in the area of Bishoftu, around 30 miles from the airport.

The flight was operated by a Boeing 737 MAX 8 with the registration code ET-AVJ. This was a brand new plane, that was just delivered to the airline in November 2018.

The plane was carrying 159 people, and unfortunately there are no survivors.

The weather in Addis Ababa was good at the time of the incident, with light winds and good visibility.

Flightradar24 notes that for the data they have on this short flight, it shows an unstable vertical speed.

I think it goes without saying that for many people the Lion Air crash of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 in October 2018 comes to mind. This flight also crashed after takeoff, and had unstable vertical speed (you can find the preliminary Boeing report here).

Obviously it’s too early to know what exactly happened. I know a lot of people are going to feel uncomfortable flying the 737 MAX 8 at this point.

I don’t think that’s necessarily unreasonable. We don’t have a full report of what happened for either flight, though we live in a day and age where commercial aviation is incredibly safe, and two planes have crashed in (what initially appears to be) very similar ways.

My thoughts are with the families and friends of those onboard. Here’s to hoping they can figure out what happened ASAP.

  1. Ethiopian is considered as one of the safest airline in Africa and this news is really heartbreaking.

  2. Boeing needs to do something. Obviously something is wrong when two airplanes of the exact same model crash months apart from each other. Not going on any until Boeing figures what is going on.

  3. I will not be flying this aircraft type until they fix these issues.To be honest I was avoiding them anyways due to AA’s horrible densified versions.But flying AA out of MIA makes it difficult to avoid.

  4. It’s heartbreaking news. They should ground the 737-Max until they fully investigate both accidents, but suspect there will be commercial pressures to keep it flying. I’ve been avoiding the Max since the Lion Air accident last year.

  5. I would not be suprised if as main rootcauses there will be extreme cost cutting by Boeing and lack of training by pilots…flying a new machine is tough…
    Terribile news indeed

  6. Without jumping to conclusions the immediate reaction on reading that the plane was a 737MAX was the Lion Air crash last Oct. Apparently there IS a problem with this aircraft type and Boeing (and the airlines) need to be transparent with the flying public. If these aircraft need to be grounded for a while till they figure out what the issue is – so be it. Not a single life is more important than Commercial benefit.

  7. Terrible news. And I’m stunned that the passengers were from so many different countries! (18 or 19, depending on the source.)

  8. Once could be a training issue. If it happens twice, within months, after every Max 8 pilot has been made aware of the issue, it’s a serious design flaw.

  9. It’s not strange that people from so many nationalities were on board. Adis Ababa as become a major hub in Africa and Kenya is a major tourist destination due to the national parks and safaris that it offers.

  10. To keep this in perpesctive the 777 has only crashed twice. Once in London with no fatalities and once at SFO with I think 3 fatalities. One other 777 was shot down and another one disappeared so those don’t count.

    For two brand new commercial
    Jets to crash under the same circumstances is an absolute catastrophe.

  11. This plane needs removing from the sky immediately – does anyone know if AA operates this aircraft type on the LAX-LAS route ? my partner checked and it says ‘aircraft 737’ but is that the same type? My partner has told me he isn’t getting on the flight end of story.

    Will AA change us to a flight that departs two hours later on an airbus if i asked them ? (am booked in business class and BAEC silver)

  12. Very scary stuff.

    Boeing need to take action, quite clear the 737 Max has a design fault.

    Very sad for the passengers and the Airline.

  13. Reminds me of the book Airframe by Michael Crighton. Two planes of the same model subsequently crash and the initial reaction is that passengers are frightened to fly that model. Good read.

  14. @Super VC10
    33 different nationalities in all, according to a passenger manifest floating around. Ethiopian confirmed 32 at this point, with 2 passengers of unknown nationality.

  15. The only other commercial aircraft in history which had multiple crashes within months of first deliveries was “de Havilland Commet 1” and it was grounded after 3 crashes. The only reason it was not grounded after 2 crashes was politics and British goverment ambitions to become a major player in commercial aviation.

    NTSB/FAA should ground 737MAX now until investigation excludes design flaw which was not addressed by previous directive or issues new directive or safety fix.

  16. Until the root cause is known and fixed, any airline that continues to fly the MAX is grossly irresponsible. Close to home, the airline that I mostly fly, American, should ground it’s 737 MAX fleet this very minute.

  17. If anyone here is old enough to remember there was an issue with the 737 many years ago vertical stab was causing flight control issues and planes sadly were crashing. I too agree Boeing may need to call a ground halt, certainly the flight data recorders should help isolate the issue.

  18. Sincerely hope it doesn’t take a third accident to ground them, but concerned it might. So incredibly sad.

  19. I am now sitting on the Norwegian Air 737 8 Max and reading this terrible news.

    It doesn’t feel too good!

  20. Such tragic news to wake up to, was instantly worried that I might know someone as a Kenyan, 33 different nationalities were on board. My thought and prayers to all the families involved

  21. The FAA is complicit in these deaths. The plane should have been grounded last year. Boeing rigged the computer to prevent stalls due to a poor design change with the 737. The original 737s were designed before jet bridges. They designed the jet to be very close to the ground since people had to use steps. The 737 max use a larger diameter engine and it would not fit under the wings in the same area as the old 737, owing decided to move the engine forward. This shifted the center of gravity of jet which made stalls more likely. Boeing secretly added a new autopilot system that is always on calledMCAS to prevent stalls when the plane detected the possibility of on. Unfortunately their AI is flawed and their deception was exposed but the FAA has done nothing .

  22. How can we tell if a plane is a 737 Max? Would that be the listed plane type, or is there an alternative naming (737-900, 739, etc)?

  23. This is especially unnerving as the MCAS, suspected in the Lion Air crash, was recently addressed with directives to pilots as to actions in the case of erroneous readings. Southwest was even adding new Angle of Attack indicators on this variant as an additional safeguard.

    One would assume that the Ethiopian pilots had been briefed on this and understood the steps. So, there is either a different problem with the Max not yet found or the directives to pilots in how to handle the MCAS under these circumstances is not working.

    Whatever the case there is something seriously wrong with this aircraft and I will avoid it for the time being.

    @Hepworth American identifies it as a MAX on their site (not sure on other carriers). I don’t believe that third party booking sites do though and it will just show as being a 737-8/9 etc.

  24. @Hepworth
    The new winglets are usually a pretty solid indication, but not surefire, as some 737NGs will get that too. Engines have the new sharktooth nacelles. Booking systems will usually show 7M8 or 38M instead of 73H or 738 on a 737NG. And historical indication of the flight you’re booking is usually a pretty solid way.

  25. Could be a silly question but how could 2 nationalities be unknown? Isn’t this an international flight? Wouldn’t all passengers be required to show a passport? Does Africa has aversion of the schengen?

  26. Just 2 weeks ago I flew Ethiopian A350 and Kenya B737 across as Africa and India. Ethiopians flights were all safest while I the flight of KQ was horrible (landing at ROB).

    My condolences to the families .

  27. Shawn,

    They are likely UN Laissez-Passer holders; the documents do not list nationality. The first list of passengers I saw stated four UN LPs on the manifest.

  28. I fly on a 737 MAX 8 twice a week. While it’s too early to know what happened, I would really like to know what happened.

  29. @Nick: “This plane needs removing from the sky immediately – does anyone know if AA operates this aircraft type on the LAX-LAS route ? my partner checked and it says ‘aircraft 737’ but is that the same type? My partner has told me he isn’t getting on the flight end of story.

    Will AA change us to a flight that departs two hours later on an airbus if i asked them ? (am booked in business class and BAEC silver)”

    If your seat map has first class as rows 1-4, then it is possible that the flight would be on one of the MAX planes. (AA has three 737 configurations – the MAX configuration and one of their two 738 configurations has F as rows 1-4.) If F is rows 3-6, then it would be on a non-MAX 738.

    As for whether AA would allow you to switch to a different flight, it’s not likely that they would allow it without a fee. On the day of departure, BA silver would allow you to stand by for a different flight for free, but otherwise, you’d have to pay to confirm seats on a different flight (either the day of departure or earlier).

  30. Come on, Lucky. 159 dead, everyone else is reporting this correctly. Furthermore there’s no such thing as vertical altitude. Vertical speed yes. However the airspeed is increasing continuously unlike the Lion Air crash. It’s soon early and a little reckless to compare the two

  31. Do not jump to conclusions: In 1954, two Air France DC4s crashed exactly in the same location 48 hours apart (hence was born the nickname “Air Chance”…) for reasons completely different: 1 was hit by a freak sand storm at a 1000 ft altitude, the second was pilot error, the captain had an accent (immigrant from I do not remember where), and during the flaps operations he told his copilot “Trente” (meaning 30 degrees) and the copilot understood “Rentre” (retract).

    This being said, major 737 MAX operators must be very worried today.

  32. “@ Pierre — No one is saying the two incidents are related with 100% certainty”

    Right, not with 100% certainty but by reading most of comments here already condemning Boeing and max 8, you would think that the investigations on both incidents were conclusive finding Boeing at fault with exact same issue on both cases.

  33. I had a sleepless night due to this accident. Ethiopian, I had decided to be my next carrier to Africa (earlier it was KQ).

  34. Hi Ben

    Although I am registered for your blog email daily but suddenly it stopped.

    I updated my info yet still did not received anything from you for over weeks.

    I do not understand why this is happening.

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