On Sunday, March 10, 2019, at about 8:44 am local time, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed shortly after take-off, killing all 157 people on board, 149 passengers and 8 crew members.
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX plane pilots initially took the emergency steps outlined by the manufacturer but still could not regain control.
The pilots followed the protocol set by planemaker Boeing Co. to manually disable an automated anti-stall system as they unsuccessfully tried to save the Boeing Co. 737 Max jet, a person familiar with the situation said.
They then switched the system back as they tried to find other ways to control the jet before it crashed, the newspaper added, citing people briefed on the crash investigation's preliminary findings.
The Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System turned itself on numerous times during the short flight, the person said.
In the wake of the fateful crash, some western media houses had carried reports that the pilots of the ill-fated flight did not train to fly the new model of the jet on a simulator.
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam however, was quick to clear the air by adding that their pilots had used a flight simulator to learn how to fly the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane as per Boeing recommendation.
"As far as the training is concerned ... we've gone according to the Boeing recommendation and FAA-approved one. We are not expected to speculate or to imagine something that doesn't exist at all," he said.
The pilot, Yared Getachew, age 28, had logged over 8,000 flight hours under his belt. Ahmednur Mohammed who was Getachew’s co-pilot had flown 200 hours.
MCAS, which is programmed to push down a plane’s nose to help prevent aerodynamic stalls in some situations, is a focus of concern by regulators and lawmakers after 346 people died in crashes of Boeing’s newest version of the 737 flown by Ethiopian and Lion Air less than five months apart.
The MCAS is believed to have been a key factor in both 737 MAX crashes.
A Boeing representative in Singapore however, refused to comment on the matter saying she wasn’t able to comment, adding that the accident is still under investigation and questions should be directed to the investigators in charge.
The preliminary report on the accident will likely be issued this week, the Ethiopian government has said.