In Summary
  • It is not yet clear what caused the new aircraft to crash, given that it took off from Bole in good weather.
  • The Boeing 737 Max 800 aircraft, registration ET-AVJ and serial number 62450, ran its first flight for Ethiopian Airlines in October last year.

  • The flight had people from 33 nationalities, with Kenya suffering the largest number of casualties.

Kenya was last evening mourning the death of 32 of its citizens in a plane crash in Ethiopia that claimed all 157 people on board yesterday morning.

A flight tracking site indicated that the plane had shown signs of trouble only two minutes after take-off.

Flight ET302 left Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa at 8:38am for Nairobi. Two minutes into the flight, FlightRadar24, a flight tracking website, reported that the plane’s vertical speed was unstable.

DIFFICULTIES

The instability persisted for the next three minutes and the plane maintained an altitude of 7,500 feet, with a speed of 600 knots (about 1,100km/h) before the tracking site lost its position at 8:42am.

It is understood that the pilot of the ill-fated Boeing 737 Max 800, Mr Yared Getachew, reported to Ethiopian radar control that he was experiencing technical difficulties with the aircraft after take-off and was cleared to turn back and land at Bole. Mr Getachew was an Ethiopia-born Kenyan.

The plane crashed near the village of Tulu Fara outside Bishoftu, some 60km southeast of Addis Ababa, killing all its passengers, two pilots and six crew members.

It is not yet clear what caused the new aircraft to crash, given that it took off from Bole in good weather, with a pilot visibility of 10km and wind speeds of eight knots (14km/h).

The Boeing 737 Max 800 aircraft, registration ET-AVJ and serial number 62450, ran its first flight for Ethiopian Airlines in October last year.

The flight had people from 33 nationalities, with Kenya suffering the largest number of casualties. Canada had 18 and Ethiopia nine, followed by Italy, China, and the United States with eight people each. Britain and France each had seven people on board, Egypt six, the Netherlands five and India four. Four were UN passport-holders. Eleven countries in Africa and 13 in Europe had citizens among the victims.

DEEP REGRET

The crash came on the eve of a major annual assembly in Nairobi of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), which learnt of the crash with “deep regret” but could not confirm how many delegates were on the plane.

“The aircraft took off at 8:38am local time from Addis Ababa and lost contact at 08:44am,” the airline said in a statement.

An AFP reporter said there was a massive crater at the crash site, with belongings and aeroplane parts scattered widely. Rescue crews retrieved human remains from the wreckage.

“It is too early to speculate the cause of the accident and further investigation will be carried out in collaboration with all stakeholders, including the aircraft manufacturer Boeing, Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority,” the airline’s chief executive officer, Mr Tewolde Gebremariam, said.

He described yesterday as a “very sad and tragic day”.

Captain Getachew had a cumulative flight time of more than 8,000 hours. He was commanding the flight alongside First Officer Ahmed Nur Mohammod Nur, who had a flight hour record of 200.

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