The second Boeing 737 Max 8 that crashed in Ethiopia “was oscillating up and down by hundreds of feet” according to a report chronicling the plane’s final moments before it crashed three minutes after takeoff last weekend.
According to the New York Times, leaked messages from the pilots of the doomed flight indicate that the flight was out of control when it crashed on March 10, killing all 157 people aboard.
“Break break, request back to home,” the captain told air traffic controllers as they scrambled to divert two other flights approaching the airport. “Request vector for landing.”
Controllers also observed that the aircraft, a new Boeing 737 Max 8, was oscillating up and down by hundreds of feet — a sign that something was extraordinarily wrong.
According to the report, pilot Yared Getachew calmly reported “flight control” problems minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport. According to radar data of the flight, the plane was flying at abnormally high speeds, described by many as dangerously high speeds. As the plane’s altitude rose and fell rapidly, the pilot’s voice reportedly became more strained and officials scrambled to clear a path for the plane to return to the ground before it was ultimately lost.
Then the controllers observed the plane going up and down by hundreds of feet, and it appeared to be moving unusually fast, the person said. The controllers, the person said, “started wondering out loud what the flight was doing.”
Two other Ethiopian flights, 613 and 629, were approaching from the east, and the controllers, sensing an emergency on Flight 302, ordered them to remain at higher altitudes. It was during that exchange with the other planes, the person said, that Captain Getachew, with panic in his voice, interrupted with his request to turn back.
The investigation into the crash is still considered to be in its early stages, so it’s possible we may not know more about what actually happened on board and led to the crash for many months. But it’s clear according to the report that something was seriously wrong, with officials actually wondering out loud what the plane was doing as it flew erratically.
It’s also clear that whatever did go wrong was similar to an earlier crash of a Lion Air plane in Indonesia in 2018, the similarities of which ultimately caused a worldwide grounding of their Boeing 737 Max 8 jets until it’s clear the problem is fixed. It took days of pressure for Donald Trump to tell the FAA to ground Max 8 jets in the United States, but the more we learn about the crashes the clearer it becomes that something went seriously wrong, and it could have happened again.