Ethiopian Airlines pilots switching to Boeing’s Max jet from older 737 models received inadequate training before a deadly crash a year ago, according to a report on the incident.
More simulator sessions are needed to familiarise aviators with a safety feature known as the manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system, Ethiopian investigators wrote in a 136-page interim report, released by the country’s ministry of transport. The system was central to how an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max plane crashed into a field near Addis Ababa on March 10 last year, killing all 157 people on board.
The top-selling Max was grounded by global regulators days after the accident, plunging Boeing into a crisis. The crash followed a similarly deadly Lion Air Max jet wreck in Indonesia almost five months earlier, which also featured the manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system. Work to redesign the software and to address additional safety issues still isn’t complete and the US manufacturer doesn’t expect the jet to return until summer at the earliest.
While the underlying manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system failure occurred in both crashes, there are also significant differences between the two incidents. Notably, the actions by the pilots varied significantly, according to available data from both investigations.
Helping to explain what the Ethiopian aviators were doing is key to gaining a full understanding as to what happened, yet the new report from the country’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau doesn’t address the pilots’ behaviour. The conclusions focus on Boeing, including issues with the manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system, training and the plane’s reliance on only a single sensor.
Training requirements for the 737 Max were set by the US Federal Aviation Administration and Ethiopian authorities.
Boeing had insisted that the Max was so similar to earlier models that only limited training was needed to move from one to the other, and made that a selling point for the plane.
The planemaker this year recommended that Max pilots get simulator training. The adminstration hasn’t weighed in on the issue.
In both the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air accidents, the Max jets were hit by a malfunction that triggered repeated, automated attempts to dive the plane.