Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crash findings released

4:25 a.m. ET, April 4, 2019

Preliminary report says crew 'performed all procedures repeatedly'

Ethiopian transport minister Dagmawit Moges addresses a news conference on the preliminary report to the Ethiopian Airlines ET 302 plane crash in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia April 4, 2019
Ethiopian transport minister Dagmawit Moges addresses a news conference on the preliminary report to the Ethiopian Airlines ET 302 plane crash in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia April 4, 2019 Tiksa Negeri/REUTERS

The preliminary report finds that the Ethiopian Airlines crew "performed all procedures repeatedly provided by the manufacturer but were unable to control the aircraft," according to Ethiopian safety investigators in the capital Addis Ababa.

4:25 a.m. ET, April 4, 2019

Ethiopian crew 'followed all expected procedures without regaining control of aircraft' says source

The preliminary report into the Ethiopian Airlines crash has determined that “the crew followed all expected procedures without managing to take back control of the aircraft,” according to a Western diplomatic source briefed on the investigation. 

The report is expected to say that the aircraft had normal certification and the crew was certified for flying this aircraft and had the necessary training.

The recommendations will include that the manufacturer should review the anti-stall system and that the certifying authority ensures that this issue has been dealt with before authorizing any further flights of this aircraft, the source added.

4:04 a.m. ET, April 4, 2019

Will the report offer any conclusions?

Probably not. Preliminary reports often don’t come to conclusions, but rather offer early raw data as a way to help safety officials take initial steps.

It's the first official report from the disaster and is required by the investigating authority to be produced within 30 days of an incident.

3:38 a.m. ET, April 4, 2019

'Horrifying' that following procedure may not have been enough

Speaking to CNN, pilot and aviation analyst Miles O'Brien gave his take on what could have happened in the cockpit once pilots reportedly turned off the automatic flight control system.

"They were left with a manual wheel to try to get the nose in the proper orientation and evidently what we are hearing is, that maybe the wheel didn’t have enough authority, that it was too hard to move, or could not move fast enough, given the amount of altitude they had in order to recover. So that put them in a situation where they followed the book, and the recovery procedure was not good enough. 
"The idea that they would have this troubleshooting system, they followed the book and it wan’t good enough, is just horrifying," said pilot and CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien.

This comes in response to reports in the Wall Street Journal with those familiar with the investigation said that Ethiopian Airlines pilots had initially followed Boeing's emergency procedure but were unable to regain control of the MAX 8 jet.

This included turning off the automated flight-control system, called the MCAS.

2:55 a.m. ET, April 4, 2019

What we know so far

One of two sensors that measures the angle of attack is pictured at bottom on a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane outside the company's factory on March 22, 2019 in Renton, Washington. 
One of two sensors that measures the angle of attack is pictured at bottom on a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane outside the company's factory on March 22, 2019 in Renton, Washington.  Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The release of the official report caps off weeks of leaks and speculation about the cause of the crash, much of it centering on the role of the MCAS anti-stall software.

Reports from the Wall Street Journal suggest that the MCAS automatically activated before the plane nose-dived into the ground.

In the Lion Air crash, the MCAS forced the plane's nose down more than 24 times before it finally hit water, according to a preliminary investigation by Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee, which found the system was responding to a faulty sensor.

The Wall Street Journal has also reported that pilots initially followed emergency procedures that were laid out by Boeing before the crash.

Questions have also been asked over whether pilots had sufficient training with the system.

Pilots transitioning to the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from older 737 models were given a short, self-administered online course that made no mention of the MCAS system, pilots' unions spokesmen for two American carriers told CNN.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam has also said that the flight simulator that pilots trained on to learn how to fly the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane did not replicate the MCAS automated feature.

2:27 a.m. ET, April 4, 2019

What to expect from the report

Candles burn before a flower adorned memorial arch erected at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 crash on March 14, 2019 in Ejere, Ethiopia.
Candles burn before a flower adorned memorial arch erected at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 crash on March 14, 2019 in Ejere, Ethiopia. Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Safety investigators on Thursday will release a much anticipated preliminary report on the deadly crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, providing the first official clues as to the cause of the disaster.

The new Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed the morning of March 10 after taking off from Addis Ababa on its way to Nairobi, Kenya, killing all 157 people on board.

The disaster was the second such crash of a Max 8 jet in less than six months and prompted worldwide grounding of the plane.

In October, all 189 people on board Lion Air Flight 610 were killed when the flight went down over the Java Sea in Indonesia 13 minutes after takeoff.

The Federal Aviation Administration agency said it had identified similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash in Indonesia.

At the center of the investigation is a flight-control feature, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), that was installed on both planes.

The MCAS is a system that automatically lowers the nose of the plane when it receives information from its external angle of attack (AOA) sensors that the aircraft is flying too slowly or steeply, and at risk of stalling.

The report is the airlines' first from the disaster and is required by the investigating authority to be produced within 30 days of an incident.