ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopian Airlines pilots received new training for the type of plane that crashed Sunday after its manufacturer, Boeing, issued a directive for it following an earlier crash in Indonesia, an airline spokesman confirmed Wednesday.
Since Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed just six minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 passengers and crew, public concerns have focused largely on the type of aircraft involved, the Boeing 737 Max 8. Most airline markets worldwide have grounded the plane pending an investigation. The United States followed suit Wednesday.
Following the crash of a Max 8 on an Indonesian domestic flight shortly after takeoff on Oct. 29, Boeing issued a bulletin warning about potential problems with an automated anti-stalling system on the plane that could push the nose down.
Ethiopian Airlines spokesman Biniyam Demssie said in an interview that the procedures for disabling the system were then incorporated into pilot training.
“All the pilots flying the Max received the training after the Indonesia crash,” he said. “There was a directive by Boeing, so they took that training.”
The bulletin from Boeing described how erroneous data from a sensor could cause an automatic system to push the nose of the plane down and how to correct for that.
The airline’s new training schedule for 737 pilots also includes dealing with this runaway stabilizer.
Preliminary reports from last year’s crash of an Indonesian Lion Air flight indicated that the pilots were wrestling to pull up the plane when it went down in the Java Sea. In both incidents, the trouble started immediately after takeoff, with an erratic flight path that ascended and then descended before the plane crashed minutes later.
Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam told CNN on Tuesday that the pilot in Sunday’s crash reported “flight control problems” soon after takeoff and asked to return to the airport.
While Tewolde said the cause of the crash was not yet clear, he cast doubt on the airworthiness of the 737 Max. In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, he called for all countries to ground the plane.
“There are some similarities that we are able to trace or connect the dots between the Lion Air accident and our accident,” he said.
“For us, it was appropriate in the extreme precaution of safety that we had to ground the airplane,” he said. “I recommend that it is the right thing to do because safety . . . should be the first and extreme precaution [that] should be taken, and that is what has been done.”
Demssie, the spokesman, said the flight’s “black boxes,” the voice and data recorders, would be sent to Europe for analysis, although the specific country has not been chosen.
The data from the two flight recorders is eagerly awaited as worry grows that the cause of Sunday’s crash could be related to the automated system aboard the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.