Ethiopian Airlines is disputing statements from a Federal Aviation Administration official this week, alleging that the FAA is trying to divert blame from Boeing. Ethiopian’s CEO also suggested that his airline is in no rush to resume flying the 737 MAX and may never do so again.
Acting FAA administrator Daniel K. Elwell appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation Committee this week to address the pair of 737 MAX crashes. In his testimony, he suggested that the Ethiopian pilots did not adhere to the November 2018 FAA Directive on the aircraft’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), thus they share responsibility for the crash (more details here). The emergency directive was issued after the Lion Air crash. Blame was not placed squarely on the pilots. Rather, Elwell explained the problem like a chain reaction:
There are so many pieces to any accident. I’ve never looked at an accident where there weren’t three or four of five links in the chain, any one of which, if it hadn’t gone wrong, the plane would have survived.
Republicans on the committee focused on pilot error while Democrats focused on the lack of FAA oversight in certifying the MCAS system in the first place.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian Airlines was not happy about Elwell’s testimony. Fully defending its pilots, it argued that “none of the expected warnings appeared in the cockpit, which deprived the pilots of necessary and timely information on the critical phase.”
Ethiopian also blamed the simulator:
However, it’s very unfortunate that the B737 Max 8 simulator was not configured to simulate the MCAS operation by the aircraft manufacturer.
Botton line, Ethiopian argued that the testimony was meant to “divert public attention” from the faults of Boeing.
Any effort that is being made to divert public attention from the flight control system problem of the airplane is a futile exercise because it is not based on factually correct analysis.
Earlier this week, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam expressed doubt that his carrier would every fly the 737 MAX again.
If we fly them again, we will be the last airline to fly them again.
Whatever the primary or secondary causes, Elwell was correct that the crash was a horrific chain event, all of which combined to create the conditions necessary for the deadly crash. Boeing faces a growing credibility crisis over its engineering and handling of the issue, but Ethiopian doesn’t help itself by being so defensive.
image: Ethiopian Airlines