Fresh black box data has helped officials identify similarities between the crashed Ethiopian Airlines plane, which killed all 157 on board, and the Lion Air flight that plunged into the Java Sea last October, resulting in 189 deaths.
Preliminary data recovered from the black box flight recorder of the doomed Boeing 737 MAX-8, suggests the plane’s stabilisers were tilted upward, forcing the nose of the jet down like the Lion Air plane that crashed into the Java Sea just 12 minutes into its journey, Ethiopia’s transport minister Dagmawit Moges told reporters.
“Clear similarities were noted between Ethiopian Air Flight 302 and Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610, which will be the subject of further study during the investigation,” Mr Moges said.
The new evidence possibly reveals problems with a brand new automated system that was installed in both aircraft, which may have forced the nose of the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air planes in the wrong direction, according to the New York Times.
The automated system, known as MCAS, activates if just one of two sensors mounted on the aircraft’s exterior says the nose is too high.
It was developed by Boeing to prevent the nose of an aircraft from being pushed upward toward a stall. They were especially important because the 737 Max plane had bigger engines that were mounted farther forward on its wings.
Mr Moges said the Ethiopian government intends to release detailed findings within one month.
“The black box has been found in a good condition that enabled us to extract almost all the data inside,” she told reporters on Sunday evening.
Investigators at the crash site of the downed flight in Ethiopia are specifically looking at a piece of equipment known as a jackscrew, which controls the angle of the horizontal stabilizers, in their effort to identify what pushed the aircraft’s nose down.
Officials say 157 people from 35 different countries were killed when the Nairobi-bound plane crashed shortly after takeoff.
The United States and other countries have now grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8s.
US-based Boeing now faces the challenge of proving the jets are safe to fly amid suspicions that faulty sensors and software contributed to the two crashes that killed 346 people in less than six months.
The US Federal Aviation Administration already has said satellite-based tracking data showed that the movements of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were similar to those of Lion Air Flight 610, which crashed off Indonesia in October, killing 189 people.
The planes in both crashes flew with erratic altitude changes that could indicate the pilots struggled to control the aircraft. Shortly after their takeoffs, both crews tried to return to the airports but crashed.