News International tragedy sparks global shock, fears for Boeing safety and mass groundings

International tragedy sparks global shock, fears for Boeing safety and mass groundings

Recovery efforts begin at Ethiopian plane crash site to take bodies home to families. Photo: Getty
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As grief spread around the globe at the news that all aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 had perished, investigators hoped the early breakthrough of the discovery of the aircraft’s black box flight recorders could answer the many questions surrounding the tragedy.

The digital flight data recorder is expected to provide the first clues as to what caused the Ethiopian Airlines plane to crash just six minutes after takeoff, including details of speed, air pressure and other information.

The cockpit voice recorder, which captures audio of anything that may have been said or heard by the captain and co-pilot prior to the crash, could be even more revealing,

The recorders, which were dug out of the crash site with heavy machinery, will be taken to a specialised lab where their data will be downloaded.

The flight’s eerie similarity to last year’s Lion Air disaster has meanwhile prompted at least 22 airlines around the world to down their Boeing 737 Max-8 aircraft, the plane involved in both tragedies.

From a distance the dirt mounds looked like a rubbish tip, but under black plastic bags lay the devastating new reality of the rural Ethiopian landscape: The rubbled soil the death place of 157 people.

There, in a paddock near the town of Bishoftu, recovery teams had the dreaded task of carrying bodies to waiting vehicles.They had hailed from 35 nations, heading to Nairobi in Kenya. Many were Kenyan nationals returning home.

Relatives and friends “in immense shock and grief” spoke proudly of the depth of the impact their loved ones had had in life before – from clear skies – Flight 302 nose-dived into a paddock 50 kilometres south of the country’s capital Addis Ababa on Sunday. They included volunteers, authors, lawyers, scholars, mothers, fathers and friends. Nineteen of the passengers were United Nations workers.

Toys and a tiny shoe in the rubble were a reminder of those gone long before the chance came to fulfil such dreams.

Slovakian politician Anton Hrnko announced on Facebook that his wife, Blanka, and children Martin and Michala had died. Also among the children killed was Sofia Abdulkadir, 5, who according to CBC news was travelling with her mother Amina Ibrahim Odowa, 33. They were among 18 Canadian victims, including Nigerian-born academic Pius Adesanmi.

“Pius Adesanmi was a towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship,” Carleton University vice-chancellor Benoit-Antoine Bacon said.

One of 32 Kenyan nationals killed was Hussein Swaleh, a former Football Kenya Federation Secretary General.

The father of British animal aid worker Joanna Toole, 36, told The Sun of his “soft and loving” daughter, who he said was working with the UN doing what she loved.

UN animal aid worker Joanna Toole was among the victims of the crash.
UN animal aid worker Joanna Toole was among the victims of the crash. Photo: Facebook

Fellow UN worker Mick Ryan also died, leaving behind a wife and children in Ireland, where parishioners at his local church remembered him as “an amazing human, father and engineer” who was “down to earth”.

CASA won’t rule out Boeing ban

With the grief, the swirling of the inevitable questions: firstly, how did this happen? Authorities were still unable to say. What did stand out was that the circumstances were strikingly similar to the Lion Air crash off the coast of Indonesia that killed 189 people in October.

Both occurred in clear weather, when the planes seemed to nose-dive not long after take-off. And both were in a Boeing 737 MAX-8 jetliner.

Hopefully, some of the queries will be answered now that the black box from the crashed flight had been recovered on Monday night by investigators at the crash site, Ethiopian state TV says.

Aviation experts told the ABC they expected it could take “a matter of days” for investigators to gain a basic idea of what happened.

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority confirmed on Monday night it could consider intervening to stop the aircraft operating in Australia in future.

Some 22 airlines have grounded their Boeing MAX-8 planes in response to the crash, with China (96), Indonesia (11),  Ethiopia (four) and Cayman Airways (two) leading the way.

The tragedy has posed a dilemma for one Australian airline which still has the aircraft on order.

Virgin Australia had ordered 30 MAX-8s and another 10 MAX-10s, the first aircraft of which was due to join the company’s fleet at the end of the year.

Virgin on Monday night said it was too early to comment on the Ethiopian disaster or its effect on the 737 MAX 8 jets it has on order.

CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told The New Daily the authority would await results of investigations into the crashes and the reaction by the US Federal Aviation Administration before deciding on any course of action.

“We will not allow the aircraft type to enter the Australian fleet unless it meets all the relevant safety standards,” Mr Gibson said.

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