ADDIS ABABA • The Ethiopian Airlines pilots followed proper procedures when their Boeing 737 Max 8 plane repeatedly nosedived before a March 10 crash that killed 157 people, Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges said yesterday as she delivered the first official report on the disaster.
"The crew performed (repeatedly) all the procedures provided by the manufacturer but was not able to control the aircraft," she told a news conference in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
In line with international rules on air accidents, the preliminary report did not attribute blame.
Nor did it give a detailed analysis of the flight, which is expected to take several months before a final report is due within a year.
But in a clear indication of where Ethiopian investigators are focusing most of their attention, the report cleared the pilots of using incorrect procedures and issued two recommendations directed at planemaker Boeing and regulators.
It suggested that Boeing review the aircraft control system and that the aviation authorities confirm the problem has been solved before allowing that plane model back into the air.
The Boeing 737 Max 8 was grounded globally following the crash, which was the second deadly accident in six months involving the model after a Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October that killed 189 people.
"Since repetitive uncommanded aircraft nose-down conditions are noticed... it is recommended that the aircraft control system be reviewed by the manufacturer," said Ms Moges.
Ethiopian Airlines said its crew had followed all the correct guidance to handle a difficult emergency.
The investigation into the crash has pitted Boeing's reputation for technical quality against a successful, modern African airline that is a symbol of pride for Ethiopia.
Importantly, Ms Moges said there were no dissenting voices among investigators who worked on the preliminary report.
The full report is expected to be published within a year.
The report could also spark a debate with Boeing about how the crew responded to problems triggered by faulty data from an airflow sensor, particularly over whether they steadied the plane before turning key software off.
The planemaker said it would study the report.
The report is "significantly bad news for Boeing", CMC Markets UK chief market analyst Michael Hewson told Bloomberg by phone. "(It is) saying the pilots were not to blame. (That) places much more scrutiny on Boeing's processes."
Families of the victims, as well as regulators and travellers around the world, are waiting for clues to the accident after the new Boeing jet crashed six minutes after take-off.
A Lion Air 737 Max 8 had crashed just five months earlier in Indonesia, killing all 189 on board.
The preliminary report into the Lion Air disaster said the pilots lost control after grappling with the plane's Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software, a new automated anti-stall feature that repeatedly lowered the nose of the aircraft based on faulty data from a sensor.
Boeing on Wednesday said it had successfully tested an update of the MCAS software designed to reduce its authority and make it easier for pilots to handle.