The plane was never stable since taking off from the Addis Addaba airport and suffered malfunctions just a minute after take off. The faulty anti-stall system was the primary reason for the crash.
The recording of the last moments of the tragic Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max, has been released and it highlights a number of things going wrong for the airlines at the same time, reports the Daily Mail. Chilling recordings from the recovered black box of the doomed flight depicted the struggle of the two young pilots, doing all they could to save the flight. The plane was bombarded by system failure warnings and alarms for six minutes before it crashed and killed all the 157 people on board. Ethiopian authorities released a preliminary report of the crash on Thursday. Malfunctions began as soon as the plane took off from the Addis Ababa airport. One minute in, Captain Yared Mulugeta Gatechew, 29, reported that the flight was having flight-control problems. A device in the plane called the stick shaker began vibrating and warned the captain of the possibility that the plane may go down. The captain's control column was also vibrating, and the passengers and the pilots were staring at the possibility that the plane could stall and fall from the sky. A few minutes later the anti-stall system kicked in and pushed the nose of the plane down for around nine seconds.
The captain and his co-pilot, Ahmednur Mohammed, 25, could be heard desperately panting and heaving in unison as they tried to keep jet from going down. Audible warnings of "'Don't Sink" can be heard from the cockpit. All this while the plane was going down instead of climbing up. The pilots could also be heard struggling to turn the nose of the plane up. They were briefly successful and were able to make the plane ascend, but for a very short time.
To their bad luck, the system malfunctioned again and the automatic anti-stall system pushed the nose down again. This triggered more warnings of "Don't Sink." Following this, the Ethiopian pilots flipped two switches and disconnected the automatic anti-stall system. They then tried to regain control of the aircraft. While they had already sent word of going back to Addis Ababa, their struggle with the aircraft continued.
Breaking Boeing's protocol, the pilots returned power to controls including the anti-stall system, perhaps with the aim to adjust a tail surface that controls whether the plain goes up or down. The automated system kicked in, pushing the plane into a nosedive. Half a minute later the cockpit voice record ended indicating that the plane had crashed. The fact that the plane had a sensor that malfunctioned was acknowledged by Boeing.
The company said that it was working on a new software upgrade to fix the problem. "It's our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it, and we know how to do it," said CEO Dennis Muilenburg. Questions have also been raised at the procedure of selecting pilots. Both pilots of the Max plane had just 159 hours between them on the 737 Max. The Max is Boeing's newest version of the single-aisle jetliner, the 737, which was released on 1960s. Less than 400 Max jets have been sent to airlines around the world. Although Getachew had over 8,000 hours of flying since 2010 when he completed his training, he had flown just 103 hours on the Max. However, a fact to note is that Ethiopian Airlines had just five of the said planes.
The co-pilot, Mohammed, was only 25 and was granted a license to fly the 737 and the Max on December 12 last year. He had just 56 hours on the 737 Max while 207 hours were on 737s. The pilots performed all the recommended procedures when faced with such a situation, according to the report, but they still could not control the jet. While Boeing continues to work on its software update, Max jets have been grounded all over the world.
Some critics, have questioned why improvements have been taking so long. Jim Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the preliminary findings "add urgency to re-examine the way that the Federal Aviation Administration uses employees of aircraft manufacturers to conduct safety-related tasks" He asked "Don't you think if Boeing knew what the fix was, we would have the fix by now?' They said after the Lion Air accident there was going to be a fix, yet there was a second accident with no fix. Now, in response to the worldwide reaction, the plane is grounded and there is still not a fix." The plane's impact left a crater ten meters deep and reduced the plane to shards and pieces.