The pilot of a Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 that crashed six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, had alerted controllers “he had difficulties” and wanted to turn back the plane carrying 157 people, the head of Ethiopian Airlines said.
The pilot “was given clearance” to return to Addis, chief executive officer Tewolde GebreMariam told journalists in the Ethiopian capital when asked whether there had been a distress call.
An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 crashed Sunday morning en route from Addis to Nairobi with 149 passengers and eight crew believed to be on board, Ethiopian Airlines said, with the prime minister offering condolences to victims’ families.
“We hereby confirm that our scheduled flight ET 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi was involved in accident today,” the airline said in a statement.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office tweeted it “would like to express its deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning.”
US aerospace giant Boeing said Sunday it was “deeply saddened” about the deaths of all 157 people aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and would provide technical assistance to find out why its aircraft crashed.
The brand-new Boeing 737 — which was delivered just last year — was heading from Addis Ababa to Nairobi when it crashed after take-off.
“Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane,” the company said in a statement.
“We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team,” it said.
“A Boeing technical team is prepared to provide technical assistance at the request and under the direction of the US National Transportation Safety Board.”
The single-aisle Boeing 737 MAX is one of the world’s newest and most advanced commercial passenger jets. But the company has come under fire for possible glitches with the plane, which entered service in 2017.
An Indonesian Lion Air 737 MAX crashed into the Java Sea in October about 13 minutes after leaving Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.
After investigators said that aircraft had problems with its airspeed indicator and angle of attack (AoA) sensors, Boeing issued a special bulletin telling operators what to do when they face the same situation.