Ethiopian Airlines Crash Updates: Expect Delays
Passengers in the United States were bracing for delays on Thursday, a day after President Trump announced the grounding of all Boeing 737 Max aircraft in the wake of a deadly crash in Ethiopia, but experts said the three American carriers that operate the planes would replace the jets with other aircraft.
• The so-called black boxes, voice and flight data recorders, recovered from the wreckage of Flight 302 were sent to France for analysis on Thursday, Ethiopian Airlines said. Satellite data has revealed similarities between Sunday’s crash and the October crash of a plane flown by the Indonesian carrier Lion Air, but the recorders contain more detailed information about the Ethiopian flight’s final moments.
• New disclosures point to what appears to have been a struggle by pilots of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 to control their new Max 8 aircraft minutes after takeoff.
Will your flight be delayed? Maybe. Also, check your seat assignment.
Delays are inevitable, and some customers will be inconvenienced, as airlines reshuffle their plans in the wake of a presidential order grounding about 70 Boeing Max aircraft across the United States.
The planes operated by Southwest, American and United airlines carry about 300,000 passengers per week, said Scott Mayerowitz, the executive editorial director of The Points Guy, a travel website. Airlines could cancel some of those flights and rebook passengers on similar trips, or briefly delay routine maintenance on some of the few planes they have in standby, he said.
The airlines may reassign planes originally designated for different routes. For example, an airline could cancel one of its frequent Chicago-to-New York flights, which typically are not sold out, rebook those passengers and reassign a plane.
That could result in delays and cancellations not just on routes that fly 737 Max jets, but those that use different planes that have been redirected to routes formerly flown by a Max jet.
No matter the fix, the swap could mean a different seating arrangement. Mr. Mayerowitz said passengers planning to fly in the next few weeks should check their airline’s website to make sure their seat assignments have not changed after switching aircraft.
“Passengers who were booked in an aisle seat or extra leg room might now find themselves in the back of a jet, stuck in a middle seat,” he said.
‘Black boxes’ head to France for analysis
Ethiopia sent the “black boxes” recovered from the wreckage of Flight 302 to Paris on Thursday, Ethiopian Airlines said on Twitter, as investigators hope to conduct a more detailed analysis of the flight data and cockpit voice recorders.
The boxes, which can withstand temperatures of 2,012 degrees Fahrenheit, collect critical information about a flight. Microphones in the cockpit record the pilots’ voices and other telling sounds.
Information gleaned from the data recorder can reveal nuances about a flight’s altitude, instrument readings and power settings, which help create detailed models of the crash.
The analysis of the boxes is expected to take months, but the American authorities decided on Wednesday to ground all Boeing 737 Max jets after studying satellite data that suggested similarities between the Ethiopian crash and the October Lion Air crash of a Max 8 in which all 189 people on board were killed.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement on Wednesday that the decision to temporarily ground the planes was based on “new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today,” but did not go into detail.
“This evidence,” it said, “together with newly refined satellite data available to F.A.A. this morning, led to this decision.”
Pilots struggled to control the plane within minutes
Shortly after takeoff from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, the captain of the Ethiopian Airlines jetliner reported “flight control problems” to air traffic control. That suggests that the cockpit crew was having trouble with the mechanical instruments used to handle the aircraft, the computerized systems that fly it, or both.
The pilot’s alert was reported Wednesday by a spokesman for the airline, Asrat Begashaw; the airline’s chief executive, Tewolde GebreMariam, had made similar remarks to CNN the day before.
Mr. Begashaw said the control tower had granted the crew’s request to return to the airport, but the plane crashed three minutes later, killing all aboard.
The disclosure added to suggestions that the plane had not responded to intended actions by the pilots. There has been no suggestion so far of terrorism or other outside interference in the functioning of the aircraft, which was only a few months old.
In earlier evidence pointing to the possibility of an intrinsic problem with the Max 8 model, control issues were reported by the crew of the Lion Air Max 8 that crashed minutes after takeoff in Indonesia last October.
Mr. Begashaw declined to specify what control problems might have led to the crash on Sunday, which killed all 157 people aboard.