Ethiopian Airlines Pilot Had 'Flight Control Problems'

Trump says modern aircraft are too complex
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2019 6:21 AM CDT
Updated Mar 13, 2019 6:50 AM CDT
Ethiopian Airlines Pilot Had 'Flight Control Problems'
A grieving relative is held back by others at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Wednesday, March 13, 2019.   (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

The pilot of a doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight reported having "flight control problems" soon before the crash, the airline's CEO says. "He was having difficulties with the flight control of the airplane, so he asked to return back to base," Tewolde GebreMariam tells CNN. The CEO says controllers granted captain Yared Getachew permission to return to Addis Ababa at around the same time the Boeing 737 Max 8 disappeared from radar, just six minutes into the flight. All 157 people on board died. GebreMariam says the airline believes the "similarities are substantial" with a Lion Air crash last October, which also involved a new Max 8 that went down within minutes of take-off. More:

  • Still flying in the US. The FAA has refused to ground the Boeing 737 Max 8, leaving the US in an increasingly small minority, the BBC reports. The European Union, China, and Australia are among those that have banned the plane from their airspace. They were joined Wednesday by New Zealand, Thailand, and Vietnam.

  • Black boxes. Ethiopian Airlines spokesman Asrat Begashaw tells the AP that the black boxes from the flight will be sent overseas, but they haven't decided which country they will be sent to. "What we can say is we don't have the capability to probe it here in Ethiopia," he says.
  • A call to Trump. Sources tell Bloomberg that Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg called President Trump Tuesday to personally assure him that the Max 8 is safe.
  • Airplanes "too complex." The Muilenberg call came after tweets from Trump in which he questioned the safety of modern aircraft. "Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT," he tweeted, adding that "old and simpler" is often "far better." "I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot," he said.

  • Statement from the FAA. Acting FAA administrator Daniel Elwell said late Tuesday that the agency's review of "aggregate safety performance from operators and pilots of the Boeing 737 Max ... shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft.”
  • A "very cozy relationship." The New York Times looks at the close relationship between the FAA and Boeing. The regulator has created a program that lets companies like Boeing choose employees to help certify their planes. "It’s a very cozy relationship,” said Jim Hall, the former head of the National Transportation Safety Board. “The manufacturer essentially becomes both the manufacturer and the regulator, because of the lack of the ability of government to do the job.”
  • Bipartisan calls to ground planes. Lawmakers from both parties have called for use of the Max 8 to be suspended, but officials say they don't want to cause unnecessary fear, the Washington Post reports. "Those planes should be pulled down and inspected. The flying public is owed that,” says former transportation secretary Ray LaHood, who served as a GOP congressman before joining the Obama administration.
(A safety expert gave a telling answer when asked about the aircraft.)

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