Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX Black Box Found – Here’s What We Know

Breaking news out of Ethiopia, as the black box of a Boeing 737 MAX which came down after takeoff has been recovered. According to Ethiopia’s state television network, the cockpit voice recorder from the flight was retrieved. There is no news as to whether the Flight Data Recorder has been found at this time.

The Ethiopian Airlines 737MAX came down roughly six minutes after takeoff yesterday morning. The accident occurred at 0844 local time, 0544UTC. All 157 onboard the flight have reportedly passed away in the incident.

Ethiopian 737
An Ethiopian 737 (not pictured) crashed on departure from Addis Ababa yesterday morning. Photo: Boeing

Update 1109UTC

Ethiopian Airlines has confirmed that both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder have been recovered. These will now be securely transported to a lab where they will be analysed as investigators try to establish the sequence of events that led to the aircraft crashing shortly after take off.

Black box

Black boxes from retired aircraft seen at Pima Air and Space Museum. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

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What Do We Know So Far?

As with any major accident, details can take a while to trickle through. This can lead to speculation, and in the worst cases, fake news spreading.

So far we know that the aircraft involved was a six month old Boeing 737 MAX. The aircraft, registered as ET-AVJ, was operating flight ET302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi.

157 people were onboard the aircraft. This included eight crew and 149 passengers. The full list of nationalities on board includes:

  • 32 Kenyans
  • 18 Canadians
  • 9 Ethiopians
  • 8 Chinese
  • 8 Americans
  • 7 Brits
  • 7 French
  • 6 Egyptians
  • 5 German
  • 4 Slovakians
  • 4 Indians
  • 3 Russians
  • 3 Swedish
  • 3 Austrian
  • 2 Moroccans
  • 2 Israelis
  • 2 Spanish
  • 2 Polish
  • 1 Belgian
  • 1 Djiboutian
  • 1 Indonesian
  • 1 Irish
  • 1 Mozambican
  • 1 Norwegian
  • 1 Rwandan
  • 1 Saudi Arabian
  • 1 Sudanese
  • 1 Somalian
  • 1 Serbian
  • 1 from Togo
  • 1 Ugandan
  • 1 Yemeni
  • 1 Nepalese
  • 1 Nigerian
  • 1 traveller on a UN passport

Updated with official passenger list from Ethiopian Airlines

Similarities To Lion Air

Yesterday’s accident seems to have a number of similarities to a Lion Air accident. While it is important to stress there is currently no solid link between the two accidents, they do share some similarities. Both aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff.

Boeing 737 MAX
A Lion Air 737 MAX 8 was in a similar accident in October 2018. Photo: Boeing

The aircraft accident appears to have been caused by inaccurate readings from the Angle of Attack indicator. This lead to the computers trimming the nose down.

Simple Flying’s Jay recently travelled on a Fiji Airways 737 MAX 8. He reported “after a few minutes, when we were at about 4-5,000 feet, something interesting happened. We levelled off a bit sharply and had a nose dive with engines at almost idle. It was not a very significant nosedive, maybe a couple of hundred feet at most, but enough to get a frequent flier and avgeek a little rattled”

We will have to wait for the black box investigation before we can jump to conclusions about the accident yesterday, however, some countries appear to be grounding the 737 MAX 8 out of caution.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated by the Simple Flying team as the story develops.

  1. Boycott, refuse to fly the 737 MAX at all costs. Two plane crashes in six months. Something is amiss at Boeing. Stick with Airbus, the world leader in SAFE commercial planes. The Boeing Company is toast. Law suits will most certainly come from all the countries who lost citizens.Not to mention the devasted families. US corporate GREED is on display for all the world to see. Boeing is on the wrong side of aviation safety. Ground your 737 MAX.

    1. That’s really not the right reaction.
      B737 Max grounding or boycott of this one, I can understand.
      But even if I like Airbus planes more than Boeing ones, you exaggerate !
      Boeing isn’t toast at all.
      We are talking about 2 incidents, and for the 2nd one, we don’t know yet what happened. So wait and see is the best attitude.
      Airliners will NEVER be 100% safe. And like every industrial product, during the first months / 2-4 years, there is a learning curve where the product is still improving and evolving.
      The thing is that it could happen to Airbus, Bombardier or Embraer… And that’s something we need to keep in mind.
      And in general, plane crashes have human origins. So in order to rate the plane safety, we need to take out all the deaths that have a human error origin.
      Plus, we need to remove the airlines that are not the best in maintenance and security.
      And it turns out that the B737 is slightly cheaper than the A320, and that the B737 is more likely than the A320 to be flown by a “developing country” carrier.
      Ethiopian Airlines have a great safety record, but let’s wait for the conclusions.
      But Lion Air should never have flown the B737 MAx that crashed with passengers on board. After a Pan Pan for the event they experienced, they should have worked with Boeing to make sure the plane is safe to fly.
      And this despite the design mistake of Boeing of only having 2 angle of attack sensors, and the aircraft computer decision to dive….
      Simplifying things are useless.
      And last but not least… Competition helped aviation to become safer. Whether it’s Boeing or Airbus, a monopoly would lead to less safety because airlines wouldn’t have the choice.
      Behind those two manufacturers, there are humans working on developing and manufacturing aircrafts. And there is a random distribution of potential mistakes. The fact that it hits twice in a row Boeing doesn’t mean anything about the airplane…
      Plus if we look at the safety records of the A320 and the B737, make sure to consider only the ones that Boeing manufactured when Airbus started to deliver the A320. Because the B737 average age is older, it has obviously more accidents, especially as it is flown in bad conditions for some airlines that don’t care that much about safety.

  2. Nice article Tom, just wanted to say that I think that under nationalities, it is Israelis, not Isrelies. No offence meant. I also think that Boeing should tell all airlines who use the 737 Max 8 to have their pilots be trained in these new automated systems.

    1. None offence taken, I appreciate your response, and I’ll update accordingly. Thanks for taking the time to point it out Alexis.

  3. Sounds like something that boeing would say at news conference just to put everyone at ease knowing the true nature of how this plane really flies.
    Thanks Mike for telling like it really is.
    Yeah and now it sounds like you and the powers that be are holding the pilots accountable for not being train to advert a disaster.
    Totally unfair.
    Why would have they to be train on a plane to avoid a disaster.
    Doesn’t make sense.
    Jusy saying

  4. Something doesn’t feel right for sure, we need to get to the bottom of this quick. I fly several airlines in a calendar year and I just got off American Airlines last week. Soon I’ll be on Southwest Airlines, so yes! please do find out what the issue is with the 737Max8. I can see both sides of the fence, grounding or not to ground the airlines in question is a hard decision. Lets focus on the finding the real issue. God bless those people who passed.

  5. One critical clue no one in the press is mentioning. Eyewitnesses in the most recent incident reported smoke coming from the plane. No smoke or fire occurred on the Lion Air flight and this failure would not lead to smoke.
    So the Ethiopian crash likely had a different cause involving fire on the plane if the eyewitness accounts are accurate. Therefore, the hyperbole and grounding of MAXs would be unsubstantiated.

  6. It seems to me that the Boeing 737 max8 has two problems: a new design which brought the engines forward, which in turn might account for an angle of attack steeper than should be, so second problem, the computer gets the message that the plane is about to stall and overrides the pilot and puts the nose of the aircraft down. It is quite obvious and should be fixable.
    I only wish Boeing would put their pants on, act responsibly, and recall all flying 737 max8 to correct these problems, otherwise i see a big time negligence problem which may be the cause of more loss of life. And yes, Boeing will be toast if, God forbid, there should be another disaster.

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