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737 Pilots Tried Over and Over to Regain Control of Jet

Ethiopia's first official report is out on Boeing crash
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2019 6:37 AM CDT
In this 2017 file photo, a bird flies away as a Boeing 737 MAX 9 moves down the runway before taking off on its first flight in Renton, Wash.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(Newser) – It wasn't a single, quick plunge to death: The Boeing 737 Max that crashed in Ethiopia nosedived multiple times as its pilots tried in vain to stop it, according to the first official report on last month's disaster. "The crew performed all the procedures repeatedly [that were] provided by the manufacturer but were not able to control the aircraft," said transportation minister Dagmawit Moges, reports the BBC. In a news conference, she explained that the jet experienced "repetitive, uncommanded aircraft nose-down conditions" before it went down, per the New York Times. She urged manufacturer Boeing to review the plane's flight-control system, keeping the focus on a stall-control safety feature called MCAS that has been widely blamed not only for the Ethiopian crash but for an earlier one in Indonesia.

The AP points out one area that isn't clear—whether the pilots followed Boeing's precise emergency instructions, which call for pilots to disconnect the MCAS system. "The pilots have turned the MCAS on and off, but I can't say how many times because we will find that out when we have the final report," Dagmawit tells the Times. Boeing says it will wait to review the report before commenting. The airline already said it was working on a software fix to the MCAS, which is designed to detect and correct a too-steep ascent by pushing the plane's nose down. Pilots are supposed to be able to deactivate it in the case of a false reading, but the BBC explains that it can automatically reset, creating a "tug of war" for control of the plane. (Relatives of Ralph Nader are suing over the latest crash.)

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