Ethiopian Airlines Crash Updates: Boeing Plans System Improvements After Second Crash

Ethiopian Airlines Crash Updates: Boeing Plans System Improvements After Second Crash


• Investigators from the United States and elsewhere have arrived at the scene of a deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash, in which 157 people were killed on Sunday during a flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya. Much of the investigation will focus on the so-called black boxes — voice and data recorders that were recovered on Monday.

• Several more airlines grounded their Boeing 737 Max 8 planes on Monday and Tuesday, increasing to 23 the number of companies that have taken the aircraft out of service. The Max 8, a new fuel-efficient version of Boeing’s most popular aircraft, has crashed twice in five months, leading to concerns about its safety.

• Boeing stands by the airworthiness of the plane but said that it planned to issue a software update and was working on changes to its flight controls and training guidelines.

Boeing is negotiating with the Federal Aviation Administration over improvements to its 737 Max 8 after the aircraft’s second crash in five months, though both the government and company insist the plane is safe to fly as is.

Since October, when a Max 8 belonging to the budget airline Lion Air crashed in Indonesia soon after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board, Boeing has been working on changes to the flight control systems of the aircraft. The company has also been updating its training guidelines and manuals so that airlines can teach their pilots to fly the planes more safely and easily.

After the crash of Lion Air Flight 610, concerns arose about the aircraft’s flight control systems. The main changes now being developed to those systems include limiting how much the plane’s computers can automatically pull down the nose of the plane if sensors detect a stall.

The concern after the Lion Air crash was that erroneous readings from poorly maintained sensors in the nose of the plane might have fooled the automatic systems into detecting that the plane was traveling sharply upward and in danger of stalling, when it was actually in level flight. The automatic systems may then have forced the nose down significantly, sending the plane into a steep dive into the ocean.

Boeing issued a statement late Monday saying that since the Lion Air crash, the company had been developing a “flight control software enhancement for the 737 Max, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer.” According to the company, it has been working with the F.A.A. to roll out the software updates across the 737 Max fleet in the coming weeks.

As the list of airlines taking their 737 Max 8 aircraft out of service continued to grow, Singapore became the third country, joining China and Indonesia, to suspend all use of the plane.

Singapore’s decision on Tuesday will affect Silk Air, a Singapore-based airline with six of the planes, and four other airlines that operate the aircraft in the country.

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Monday that the plane was still airworthy, but many airlines have opted to ground the planes out of caution. Four additional airlines — Aeroméxico, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Gol of Brazil and Royal Air Maroc of Morocco — took the planes out of service on Monday, bringing the worldwide total to 23.

At least 16 airlines were still flying the jet on Monday, including Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada.

Grounding a fleet because of technical problems is rare. The F.A.A. hasn’t done it in the United States since 2013, when a problem with the Boeing 787’s battery system was discovered.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were recovered on Monday, but the process of extracting the data contained within the so-called black boxes could be lengthy, experts cautioned.

The two recorders will need to be taken to a specialized center to read their data, said Lynnette Dray, an aviation expert and senior research associate at University College London.

“If the boxes are intact, then they will be able to take the data off them and look at it immediately,” Dr. Dray said.

American investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were at the crash site near Bishoftu, Ethiopia, on Monday. In a Twitter post, the F.A.A. said: “We are collecting data and keeping in contact with international civil aviation authorities as information becomes available.”



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