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April 1, 2019

Aviation attorneys offer insight on deadly Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane crash in Ethiopia

One hundred and forty-nine passengers and eight crew members were killed March 10, 2019 when their plane, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, crashed within minutes of takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The plane, a new Boeing 737 MAX 8, was en route to Nairobi, Kenya, and carrying passengers of 35 different nationalities, including 22 U.N. staff members and eight Americans.

The crash was the second in roughly six months involving Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 fleet, one the manufacturer’s latest models. The previous crash, Indonesian Lion Air Flight JT 610, occurred in October 2018 and claimed the lives of 189 passengers and crew members.

Motley Rice aviation attorneys have experience investigating plane disasters involving international commercial airlines, and have represented families of passengers when mechanical failures and other issues that were found to be at fault. For more information, contact attorney Mary Schiavo at 843.216.9138 or [email protected] or attorney Jim Brauchle at 843.216.9243 or [email protected].

Are the two plane crashes connected?

Boeing came under scrutiny as similarities between the two crashes began to be revealed. Like the latest disaster involving Ethiopian Airlines, the Lion Air flight crashed minutes after takeoff from Jakarta. Also in both cases, the planes’ pilots requested to return to the airport shortly after takeoff after experiencing dips in altitude as the planes appeared to go into a nosedive during their initial climb.

It has been reported that a new software rollout intended to prevent the planes from stalling may be responsible for difficulty the pilots reported as they attempted to control both planes. Reports indicate that in the case of the Indonesian flight, the automated flight control system, Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), may have been responding to data from a faulty sensor. As a result, it is suspected that the system repeatedly forced the plane’s nose downward in an attempt to correct a problem that didn’t exist. While Boeing states controls are available for pilots to override the system, it appears the pilots on the doomed flights were not familiar with the procedure to do so.    

Aviation authorities are currently investigating to determine any connections between the two crashes, Boeing’s role, as well as allegations that pilots were not properly trained on changes in the software before the new fleet was rolled out for mass use. In the meantime, the 737 MAX 8 fleet has been grounded worldwide as investigations into both crashes are ongoing. 

Boeing released a statement shortly after the latest crash saying it is “deeply saddened” by the crash, and that it would “provide technical assistance” under the direction of the NTSB.

Motley Rice Aviation Attorneys Speak Out 

“Well, if you don't know why planes are falling out of the sky, what you're doing is betting with passengers' lives and other lives that it won't happen again,” Motley Rice aviation attorney Mary Schiavo told PBS.

Motley Rice aviation attorneys have extensive experience investigating plane disasters involving international commercial airlines, and have represented families of passengers when mechanical failures and other issues that were found to be at fault. Aviation lawyer and CNN transportation analyst Mary Schiavo is a former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Aviation attorney James Brauchle is a former U.S. Air Force navigator with years of flying experience. Both provided on-air analysis following the crash.

Below are some of their commentary and analysis since the fatal crash:

CNN Newsroom (April 4, 2019) – Ethiopian Officals: Crew followed all procedures but still could not control Boeing 737 Max 8

CNNi (March 27, 2019) – Quest Means Business – Senate Grills FAA on Oversight after 737 MAX Crashes

BBC (March 27, 2019) – Boeing Safety Oversight

CNN (March 26, 2019) – NYT: Simulator Pilots had 40 Seconds to save Boeing 737 MAX

CNN (March 21, 2019) – Boeing’s criminal investigation in the US is ‘significant’ says CNN Aviation analyst

CNN (March 21, 2019) – New Revelations about Lion Air Disaster

CSPAN (March 15, 2019) – Mary Schiavo on Boeing 737 MAX Grounding and Airline Safety

CNBC (March 14, 2019) – Here’s the liability Boeing faces after Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane crash

CNN (March 11, 2019) – ‘Grounding of Boeing 737 MAX 8 is in order

CNN (March 11, 2019) – Airlines Ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 Planes after Ethiopia Crash