Ethiopian Airlines crash data shows 'clear similarities' with Lion Air accident, transport minister says

Preliminary data retrieved from the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed last week with 157 people aboard showed "clear similarities" with the Lion Air flight that plunged into the sea shortly after takeoff last October in Indonesia, Ethiopia’s transport minister said Sunday.

Officials retrieved the black box of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in “good condition” and were able to “extract almost all of the data inside,” Ethiopia’s Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges told reporters Sunday. The plane crashed on March 10 just six minutes after it took off in Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people, including eight Americans, aboard.

“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,” Moges said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last Monday.

Rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last Monday. (AP)

One of the similarities between the two incidents was that it involved a Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. The Lion Air flight had just taken off from Jakarta, Indonesia, last October when the pilot requested to return to the airport three minutes later. The plane plunged into the Java Sea, killing 189 people.

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Moges did not provide details about the similarities between the two crashes. She said a preliminary report on the Ethiopian Airlines crash will be published within a month.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration previously said satellite-based tracking data showed that the movements of the Ethiopian Airlines flight were similar to those of the Lion Air plane. In both incidents, the planes 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.

Indonesian forensic team members examine parts of airplane recovered from the area where a Lion Air plane crashed.

Indonesian forensic team members examine parts of airplane recovered from the area where a Lion Air plane crashed. (AP)

Officials investigating the Lion Air crash previously said they were looking into the plane’s anti-stall system, which was engaged and repeatedly pushing down the aircraft’s nose prior to it crashing into the sea. The plane also had unreliable airspeed readings on its previous flight.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said Sunday afternoon: "Boeing continues to support the investigation, and is working with the authorities to evaluate new information as it becomes available. Safety is our highest priority as we design, build and support our airplanes.  As part of our standard practice following any accident, we examine our aircraft design and operation, and when appropriate, institute product updates to further improve safety."

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The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday announced Boeing 737 Max 8 and 737 Max 9 models were being temporarily grounded in the U.S. "as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the [Ethiopia crash] site and analyzed."

The U.S. joined several other countries in grounding the aircraft following the deadly crash.

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Boeing said in a statement Wednesday that the company "continues to have full confidence of the safety of the 737 MAX."

However, it added that "out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety," they are supporting "the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.