New details emerge about the Boeing 737 Max plane involved in Ethiopian, Lion Air crashes

The safety report used to certify the plane is coming into question.

March 18, 2019, 8:45 PM

Experts across the globe are working to determine what caused the deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash and whether there was a connection between that and an earlier crash of the same plane model.

New reporting claims that engineers involved in evaluations of the plane -- a Boeing 737 Max 8 -- knew there were flaws in the original report used to certify the model before it was approved to fly.

The Seattle Times spoke to current and former engineers on the condition of anonymity about the safety analysis of the 737 Max control system.

Those engineers told the newspaper the safety analysis allegedly "understated the power of the new flight control system, which was designed to swivel the horizontal tail to push the nose of the plane down to avert a stall."

Officials released this photo of the Flight Data Recorder for Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 which crashed on March 10, 2019, killing 157 people.

The engineers said that the safety analysis report also claimed the system "failed to account for" the fact that it would reset when a pilot intervened, according to The Seattle Times.

The Federal Aviation Authority said in a Monday statement, "We have no reports from whistleblowers [or] any other sources pertaining to FAA technical personnel being pressured to speed up certification of the Boeing 737 MAX."

Boeing, which is based in Seattle, echoed that statement with one of their own.

"The 737 MAX was certified in accordance with the identical FAA requirements and processes that have governed certification of all previous new airplanes and derivatives," Boeing said in their statement. "The FAA considered the final configuration and operating parameters of MCAS during MAX certification, and concluded that it met all certification and regulatory requirements."

This comes as Ethiopia's transport minister said Sunday that the latest crash showed "clear similarities" to a Lion Air crash with the same model of aircraft.

Dagmawit Moges told journalists flight recorder data showed links between the crashes of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10 and Lion Air Flight 610 in October, according to the Associated Press.

Moges didn't offer up specific details to support her claim, but she did say the government would release a detailed report within a month or so.

The French aviation authority, BEA, which has been working with the Ethiopian investigators confirmed Monday that upon inspection, the plane's flight data recorder did show clear similarities to the recording from the Lion Air flight.

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board said they're working with the full cooperation of Ethiopian authorities to transcribe and analyze information retrieved from the flight data recorder, but that data hadn't been verified as of Sunday afternoon, sources with knowledge of the investigation said told ABC News.

In a letter from Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg, the company acknowledged that "based on facts from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident and emerging data as it becomes available from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident, we're taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX."

"Work is progressing thoroughly and rapidly to learn more about the Ethiopian Airlines accident and understand the information from the airplane's cockpit voice and flight data recorders," according to the letter from Muilenberg.

The March 10 crash killed 157 people from more than two dozen countries when the Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines flight plummeted shortly after takeoff.

The accident prompted the U.S. and other major countries to ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 jets until its safety could be confirmed.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order to ground the jets on Wednesday, citing satellite-based tracking data that linked the Ethiopia jet's movements to those of Lion Air Flight 610, which killed 189 people when in crashed off Indonesia in October.

PHOTO: American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 pulls into its gate after arriving at the Miami International Airport from Saint Thomas, March 13, 2019, in Miami.
An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 pulls into its gate after arriving at the Miami International Airport from Saint Thomas, March 13, 2019, in Miami. American Airlines is reported to say that it will ground its fleet of 24 Boeing 737 Max planes.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Boeing issued a statement shortly after the transportation minister's press conference on Sunday, but it did not address her claims directly.

"While investigators continue to work to establish definitive conclusions, Boeing is finalizing its development of a previously announced software update and pilot training revision that will address the MCAS flight control law's behavior in response to erroneous sensor inputs," the statement said. "We also continue to provide technical assistance at the request of and under the direction of the National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Accredited Representative working with Ethiopian investigators."

"In accordance with international protocol," the statement continued, "all inquiries about the ongoing accident investigation must be directed to the investigating authorities."

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