Ethiopian Plane Crash – What We Know and What We Don’t Know


On Sunday, March 10, 2019, at about 8:44 am local time, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed shortly after take off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, en route to Nairobi, Kenya.  All 157 people on board, 149 passengers and 8 crew, were dead.

People walk past a part of the wreckage at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 10, 2019. Reuters

What We Know:

  • Ethiopian Airlines has enjoyed an excellent reputation for safety, maintenance and efficiency since its founding in 1946.  As of the end of 2018, it had a fleet of 108 aircraft, over 11,000 employees, and carried over 8 million passengers per year.  Ethiopian Airlines is owned by the Ethiopian government, and has played a key role in improving intra-African travel by connecting African cities which previously required travel to Europe for connections to one another.
  • Several passengers, including at least four United Nations officials, were en route to a major United Nations meeting on the environment that commences on Monday, March 11.   French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are among those expected to participate in the meeting, in addition to over 4,700 heads of state, and public and private sector leaders and experts in the environment.   This major, global meeting is expected to set the global environmental agenda going forward.
  • On March 8, 2019, The United States State Department issued a travel alert warning American Embassy personnel to avoid travel in or out of Ethiopia’s Bole airport on Sunday, March 10.  The State Department reversed the alert hours before the crash. The basis of the original alert was concern over protests scheduled in Addis Ababa.

  • The pilot reported technical difficulties, and requested clearance to return to the airport. Contact between the air traffic controllers and the plane was lost about six minutes after take off.
  • The pilot, Yared Getachew, age 28, had a record of commendable performance with over 8,000 flight hours under his belt.
  • The plane involved was a brand new, state-of-the-art Boeing 737 MAX 8.  Preliminary observations indicate that there are similarities with the October 2018 crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Both crashes involved the 737 MAX 8. The Lion Air flight crashed shortly after takeoff killing all 189 passengers and crew. A preliminary report on the Lion Air crash found that a sensor and its related software sent the plane into a nosedive. Boeing has delivered over 300 of these jets globally, and airlines around the world have nearly 3,000 more on order. 
  • Those lost in the crash come from 35 nations, with the largest numbers being citizens of Kenya, Canada, Ethiopia, China, Italy, and the USA.  Below is the flight manifest from Ethiopian Airlines:
  • A post-crash crash investigation will be conducted by Ethiopian Airlines, the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, the Ethiopian Transport Authority, in collaboration with the regulators from the country of the aircraft manufacturer – the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board – as well as the manufacturer, U.S. corporation, The Boeing Company.

What We Don’t Know:

  • The names of the victims are being released as families are being notified.
  • Why the US State Department advised US Embassy personnel against travel in and out of Addis on March 10, 2019.
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