Angry relatives of Ethiopian Airlines crash victims visit site

French investigators take charge of jet’s black boxes
French investigators take charge of jet’s black boxes
Image: Twitter

Investigators in France were to take charge of the crashed Ethiopian Airlines jet’s black boxes on Thursday, seeking clues into a disaster that has grounded Boeing’s global 737 MAX fleet and left scores of families mourning and angry.

Sunday’s crash after takeoff from Addis Ababa killed 157 people from 35 nations in the second such calamity involving Boeing’s flagship new model in six months.

Possible links between the accidents have rocked the aviation industry, scared passengers, and left the world’s biggest plane maker scrambling to prove the safety of a money spinning model intended to be the standard for decades.

Relatives of the dead stormed out of a meeting with Ethiopian Airlines on Thursday, decrying a lack of transparency, while others made the painful trip to the crash scene.

“I can’t find you! Where are you?” one Ethiopian woman, draped in a white mourning shawl, said as she held a framed portrait of her brother in the debris-strewn field.

Nations around the world, including an initially reluctant United States, have suspended the 371 MAX models in operation, though airlines are largely coping by switching planes.

Another nearly 5,000 MAX jets are on order, meaning the financial implications are huge for the industry.

After an apparent tussle over where the investigation should be held, the flight data and cockpit voice recorders arrived in Paris.

France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) said it would receive them later in the day.

The investigation has added urgency since the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday grounded the 737 MAX aircraft citing satellite data and evidence from the scene indicating similarities and the possibility of a shared cause with October’s crash that killed 189 people.

A BEA spokesperson said he did not know what condition the black boxes were in.

“First we will try to read the data,” the spokesperson said, adding that the first analyses could take between half a day and several days.

Though it maintains the planes are safe, Boeing has supported the FAA move.

Its stock has fallen 11% since the crash, wiping $26bn (R376bn) off its market value.

It is unclear how long the aircraft will be grounded.

A software fix for the 737 MAX that Boeing had been working on since the Lion Air crash in October in Indonesia would take months to complete, the FAA said.

Deliveries of Boeing’s bestselling jets have been effectively frozen.

And in what may presage a raft of claims, Norwegian Air has said it will seek compensation from Boeing for costs and lost revenue after grounding its fleet of 737 MAX aircraft.

Japan became the latest nation to suspend the 737 MAX planes on Thursday.

Airline Garuda Indonesia said there was a possibility it would cancel its 20-strong order of 737 MAX jets, depending on what the FAA did. –