Ethiopian Airlines plane crash

By Joshua Berlinger, Eric Levenson, Rob Picheta, Euan McKirdy, Jessie Yeung and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 9:41 a.m. ET, March 12, 2019
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7:28 a.m. ET, March 11, 2019

BREAKING: Black box recovered from scene

From CNN's Bethlehem Feleke

The black box from the flight has been found, Ethiopian Airlines has confirmed.

The black box -- or digital flight data recorder -- will provide the first clues as to what caused the Ethiopian Airlines plane to crash just six minutes after takeoff.

The flight's cockpit voice recorder has also been recovered, the airline said.

Learn more about why the black box is so important to air crash investigations here.

7:32 a.m. ET, March 11, 2019

American Airlines has "full confidence" in MAX 8

From CNN's Kieron Mirchandani

American Airlines doesn't appear to be following China, Ethiopia and the Cayman Islands by grounding its Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes.

The airline has 24 models of the jet in its fleet, according to the website PlaneSpotters, which tracks aircraft deliveries.

"We have full confidence in the aircraft and our crew members, who are the best and most experienced in the industry," American Airlines said in a statement.

"American Airlines extends our condolences to the families and friends of those on board Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. At this time there are no facts on the cause of the accident other than news reports," the statement added.

Sunday's disaster in Ethiopia is the second time a MAX 8 aircraft has crashed in less than six months. American is collaborating with the Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory authorities, the company said.

7:40 a.m. ET, March 11, 2019

Boeing "should ground all its MAX 8 jets"

We won't get our first real idea as to what caused Sunday's crash until the plane's black box is analyzed.

But airlines shouldn't wait until then to ground their fleets of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, according to Mary Schiavo, a CNN aviation analyst and the former Inspector General of the U.S. Transportation Department.

"Absolutely, everybody should" ground the jets, Schiavo told CNN Monday. "I think Boeing should take the lead -- Boeing should do it," she added.

The MAX 8 jet, unveiled just two years ago, has been involved in two crashes in less than six months, following October's Lion Air disaster which killed all 189 people on board.

The 737 MAX series is Boeing's fastest-selling jet; Southwest, United and American Airlines have all ordered 100 or more of the series, according to Boeing's most recent figures, with each airline already operating several MAX 8s.

8:08 a.m. ET, March 11, 2019

Crater is the size of a basketball court

From CNN's David McKenzie in Ethiopia

Local residents watch as recovery personnel scour the crater where Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 went down.
Local residents watch as recovery personnel scour the crater where Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 went down. Jemal Countess/Getty Images

There is plenty of activity at the scene of the crash, about a two-hour drive from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. The remains of the aircraft sit in a crater about the size of a basketball court, where Kenyan Red Cross officials wearing face masks and gloves are gingerly searching for debris, belongings and body parts.

Personal items such as handbags and knapsacks are being searched for identification documents, while parts from the plane are being placed in a separate pile for further inspection. Two large diggers are on hand, clearing soil from the scene.

Hundreds of local residents are surrounding the perimeter of the site.

5:39 a.m. ET, March 11, 2019

Airline employee: "It feels like we’ve lost family"

Workers collect wreckage from the downed plane.
Workers collect wreckage from the downed plane. Fabien Muhire

Sunday's tragic plane crash has deeply affected those at Addis Ababa's Bole International Airport.

Esayse Mengistu, an Ethiopian Airlines ground service employee who is usually based at the airport but was at the crash site with a team from the airline, told CNN that identifying the remains of the 157 people who perished in the accident was difficult, and that to have such a terrible accident happen so close to home had shaken many to their cores.

"It’s hard to differentiate whose body parts are whose since the plane is in pieces," Mengistu said.  

"It feels like we’ve lost members of our family, our people, everyone has been deeply affected by this. Not just me but all Ethiopian people."

4:57 a.m. ET, March 11, 2019

Scholar made poignant Facebook post before boarding fatal flight

Pius Adesanmi/Facebook
Pius Adesanmi/Facebook

This is the Facebook post that Professor Pius Adesanmi wrote before boarding the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302.

Adesanmi, an academic and former CNN commentator, quoted a poignant bible verse.

"If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me," the verse, identified in the post as Psalm 139:9-10, reads.

Adesanmi is smiling as he takes what appears to be a selfie in the airport. Out of shot, he holds his Canadian passport and boarding pass.

Writing for CNN in 2014, he explained how social media is allowing Africans both at home and in the diaspora to shape opinion about the story of their continent.

4:27 a.m. ET, March 11, 2019

Flydubai expresses confidence in its Boeing 737 Max fleet

Airline staff pose in front of a flydubai Boeing 737-800 Next Generation aircraft during a ceremony in the Gulf emirate ahead of the airline's debut flight to Beirut in 2009.
Airline staff pose in front of a flydubai Boeing 737-800 Next Generation aircraft during a ceremony in the Gulf emirate ahead of the airline's debut flight to Beirut in 2009. KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images

United Arab Emirates’ airline Flydubai said it “remained confident in the airworthiness” of its Boeing 737 Max fleet in a statement on Monday.

“We are monitoring the situation and continue to be in touch with Boeing. We remain confident in the airworthiness of our fleet. The safety of our passengers and crew is our first priority,” the airline’s spokesperson said in a statement sent to CNN.

Flydubai has 11 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 2 Boeing 737 MAX 9 in operation.

“The introduction to our fleet of a new model of aircraft is regulated by the FAA. This is also approved by the relevant authorities and regulators. The aviation sector is highly regulated and flydubai rigorously adheres to all regulations,” the spokesperson said.

The airline said it was saddened to hear about the tragic loss of the Ethiopian Airlines flight.

 From CNN’s Sarah El Sirgany in Abu Dhabi

4:14 a.m. ET, March 11, 2019

Eyewitness: Plane "swerved and dipped" before crashing

The scene of the crash.
The scene of the crash. Fabien Muhire

Gebeyehu Fikadu, an eyewitness to Sunday's fatal crash about two-hour drive south of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, told CNN that the plane was "swerving and dipping" and belching smoke as it came down.  

"I was in the mountain nearby when I saw the plane reach the mountain before turning around with a lot of smoke coming from the back and then crashed at this site," said the 25-year-old, who was collecting firewood on the mountain with three other locals when it happened.

"It crashed with a large boom. When it crashed luggage and clothes came burning down.

"Before it crashed the plane was swerving and dipping with a lot of smoke coming from the back and also making a very loud unpleasant sound before hitting the ground."

All 157 people on board the flight died in the accident.

3:30 a.m. ET, March 11, 2019

Officials: Priorities are investigation and tending to victims' relatives

Kenyan Cabinet Secretary of Transport James Macharia and Ethiopian Airlines' Kenya country manager, Yilma Goshu, held a press conference at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi.

The two officials said that the focus now would be on conducting the "investigation in line with international standards" and on "comforting and counselling relatives, friends and family" of passengers on board the flight. So far they managed to contact 25 families, they confirmed.

Goshu said that relatives of the victims who wished to travel to Addis would be assisted, and the government would provide accommodation and updates to the investigation.

He added that Ethiopian Airlines had grounded its Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet, "as a precautionary safety measure. He noted that the decision to "suspend the planes from service" did not mean that the incident was related to "defects with (this) specific fleet."