The cause of the second tragic crash of a Boeing 737 in the space of five months remains a mystery as investigations into the sudden nosedive of both planes continue.
Emerging evidence suggests that the root of the problem may lie with the flight control system created for the 737 MAX fleet. The system was designed to combat an “upward pitching moment” which happened as a result of moving the engine forward in the 737 models, according to the aviation publication The Air Current.
The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System was designed to automatically push the nose of the plane down to prevent stalling. However, investigations are suggesting that a malfunction may have caused the plane to do so erratically.
The plane en route to Nairobi crashed not long after taking off from Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019. There were 157 people on board including two pilots and six crew members. There were no survivors. The same model of plane had a similar crash after taking off from Jakarta on October 29, 2018.
The victims of the crash came from 30 different countries. The pilots were Ethiopian-Kenyan captain Yared Getachew and Ethiopian first officer Ahmednur Mohammed. Getachew’s father told Reuters that he was “very bitter” about the death of his son who had become Ethiopian Airlines youngest captain two years earlier.
There was one Irish man on board, identified as Michéal Ryan from Cork. He was going to work with the World Food Programme in Ethiopia.
The CEO of Boeing, Dennis Muilenburg expressed his condolences to the families of the victims. He said that Boeing is working alongside the investigation to find out the cause and prevent it from happening again.
“Soon we’ll release a software update for the 737 MAX that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air 610 accident,” said Muilenburg.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered that the entire 737 MAX fleet remain grounded while the investigation into the connection between the two crashes continues.
This came just a day after they released a statement saying that there was no evidence of performance issues and thus no basis for ordering a grounding.
Southwest Airlines and American Airlines operated the majority of MAX flights across the United States. The grounding order led to mass cancellations as the airlines have pulled planes from other flights to cover those typically flown by the MAX, according to Reuters.
American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein told Reuters that “the goal is to spread out the cancellations across our entire system to impact the least amount of customers”.
Reuters reported that the software update for the flight control system is in the next week but could take some weeks to install into the planes.