An air crash caused just by a bad reading from one sensor should never happen, said a transportation expert, commenting on Ethiopian authorities’ newly-released findings over the Ethiopian Airlines crash last month.
The Nairobi-bound Ethiopian airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed near Bishoftu town, about 45 kilometers from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, just minutes after takeoff from Bole International Airport, killing all 157 people aboard.
According to the Ethiopian authorities’ initial findings, the crew repeatedly performed all the procedures provided by the plane’s manufacturer, but still failed to pull the plane up due to a sensor malfunction.
“Based on this, it sort of removes that ambiguity about, well, maybe there were issues about the system, but maybe the pilot also didn’t react strongly as they could have. In this case, the pilot had gotten that education subsequent, it seems, to the Lion Air crash and it still wasn’t enough,” said Seth Kaplan, transportation analyst with America’s National Public Radio.
The tragedy has raised wide concerns over the safety of flight automation, the failure of which in the accident should never happen just because a malfunction of a sensor, according to Kaplan.
“Automation has its benefits and downsides. Overall, though, as flight has become more automated, aviation has become safer. So it is hard to blame automation per say. If you have a system that’s based on a bad reading from one sensor, and that’s what should never happen, brings down an aircraft,” said Kaplan.
Boeing said Thursday that it will “carefully review” the report by the Ethiopian aviation authorities. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said Thursday Boeing will take necessary measures to eliminate all risks that may impact on flight safety, including the erroneous activation of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) function in the flight control system.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it is establishing a joint task team with international regulators to have a comprehensive review of the certification of the aircraft’s automated flight control system and to evaluate its design and pilots’ interaction with the system.
“Clearly, many things went wrong. There is no question about that. The question is whether something very inappropriate happened or whether it was just the regulators, whether because they were under-resourced, or otherwise they just not doing their jobs properly,” said Kaplan.
Last October a Lion Air flight of the same model crashed in Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board.
A wave of countries, including China and the United States, have grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft amid mounting safety concerns following the second crash of the same model in less than five months.