Air crash researchers examining the Boeing Co 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia have found striking similarities with an airplane that came down off Indonesia, a source has revealed.
The Ethiopian Airlines disaster eight days ago killed 157 people and led to the grounding of Boeing’s marquee MAX fleet globally.
It also sparked a high-stakes inquiry for the aviation industry.
Analysis of the cockpit recorder showed its “angle of attack” data was “very, very similar” to that of the Lion Air jet that went down off Jakarta in October, killing 189 people, a person familiar with the investigation said.
The angle of attack is a fundamental parameter of flight, measuring the degrees between the air flow and the wing.
If it is too high, it can throw the plane into an aerodynamic stall.
“If that’s the case, that does raise the possibility that there is a similar occurrence between the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents,” said Clint Balog, a Montana-based professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Even then, it was too early to draw firm conclusions, he added.
A flight deck computer’s response to an apparently faulty angle-of-attack sensor is at the heart of the ongoing probe into the Lion Air crash.
Ethiopia’s Transport Ministry, France’s BEA air accident authority and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have all pointed to similarities between the two disasters, but safety officials stress the investigation is at an early stage.
“Everything will be investigated,” Ethiopian Transport Ministry spokesman Musie Yehyies told Reuters.
Both planes were 737 MAX 8s and crashed minutes after takeoff with pilots reporting flight control problems.
Lawmakers and safety experts are asking how thoroughly regulators vetted the system and how well pilots around the world were trained for it when their airlines bought new planes.
Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg, facing the biggest crisis of his tenure, said on Monday the company understands that “lives depend on the work we do.”
Muilenburg also said a software upgrade for its 737 MAX aircraft that the planemaker started in the aftermath of the Lion Air deadly plane crash was coming “soon.”