6 Minutes of Chaos Preceded Jet's Crash

Warning of 'don't sink' kept going off as pilots tried to gain control of Boeing 737 Max
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 5, 2019 11:26 AM CDT
'Don't Sink' Kept Sounding in Cockpit of Boeing Flight
In this March 11 photo, wreckage is piled at the crash scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight.   (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, File)

The report from investigators released Thursday about the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet says pilots acted properly as they struggled to regain control of their Boeing 737 Max when an anti-stall system went awry. Bloomberg adds a caveat: Three pilots who reviewed the report tell the outlet that the pilots appear to have made a critical oversight in the chaos: "They left the engines set nearly to maximum," which made it harder to overcome the problems. Meanwhile, the AP follows up with details on what happened in the cockpit, and how the trouble began pretty much as the jet took off. Some snippets from the account by David Koenig:

  • "For six minutes, the pilots were bombarded by alarms as they fought to fly the plane, at times pulling back in unison on their control columns in a desperate attempt to keep the huge jet aloft."
  • A minute into the flight, the "anti-stall system kicked in and pushed the nose of the plane down for nine seconds. Instead of climbing, the plane descended slightly. Audible warnings—'Don't Sink'—sounded in the cockpit. The pilots fought to turn the nose of the plane up, and briefly they were able to resume climbing."

  • "But the automatic anti-stall system pushed the nose down again, triggering more squawks of 'Don't Sink' from the plane's ground-proximity warning system."
  • "Following a procedure that Boeing reiterated after the Lion Air crash, the Ethiopian pilots flipped two switches and disconnected the anti-stall system, then tried to regain control. They asked to return to the Addis Ababa airport, but were continuing to struggle getting the plane to gain altitude."
  • "Then they broke with Boeing procedure and returned power to controls including the anti-stall system, perhaps hoping to use power to adjust a tail surface that controls the pitch up or down of a plane, or maybe out of sheer desperation."
  • "One final time, the automated system kicked in, pushing the plane into a nose dive." All 157 people aboard were killed.
(More Boeing 737 stories.)

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