Every one of the 157 people aboard the state-owned Ethiopian Airlines en route to Nairobi were killed in a plane crash that an experienced pilot is calling “highly unusual.” It’s being reported that as many as 50 passengers were on their way to the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi. It’s being reported that eight of the passengers are Americans.
From Al Jazeera-The aircraft, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 carrying 149 passengers and eight crew members, took off at 08:38 am (05:38 GMT) and lost contact with air traffic controllers six minutes later.
It crashed near Bishoftu, southeast of the Ethiopian capital, Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement.
The Daily Mail reports – Within the first few minutes after take-off the plane’s vertical speed, the rate of climb or descent, varied from 2,624 feet per minute to -1216.
According to Swedish flight-tracking website flightradar24, the flight ‘had unstable vertical speed’ shortly after take off.
Aviation experts describe this as extremely unusual because once a plane has taken off the vertical speed should rise or remain stable.
The plane, a 737 MAX 8, is believed to be a new addition to the EA fleet having been delivered in July last year – and is the same model as the Lion Air plane which crashed in Indonesia in October.
Boeing issued a safety warning last November about its new 737 Max jets which could have a fault that causes them to nose-dive. The MAX-8 planes were launched in 2016 and are used by major airlines all around the world.
While it remains unclear what happened onboard, there was an urgent investigation in Indonesia in November 2018 – calling for all MAX jets to be inspected after the crash.
The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines calls itself Africa’s largest carrier and has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent.
Relatives in Nairobi have said they have not been told anything – and that they only heard about the crash on Facebook – despite being at the airport waiting for loved ones.
Aviation expert Sally Gethin said the plane’s rapidly fluctuating speed may indicate the aircraft stalled.
She said: ‘It’s the rate of climb or descent – the most critical phases of flight. Instability at that point e.g. too slow – could destabilize the aircraft, potentially risking stalling and other hazardous consequences. It might indicate the pilots had difficulty controlling the climb/ascent.’
An experienced pilot told MailOnline the activity was highly unusual.
He said: ‘A positive number indicates the aircraft is going up. After takeoff, you would expect all these numbers to be positive as the aircraft climbed away from the ground, or zero if they are flying level. The small amount of data released so far indicates that after only one minute or so of the flight this aircraft started descent at a rate of up to 1920 feet per minute down. If the data is correct that is extremely unusual.
‘The data then shows the aircraft going up and down until the data stops. That is why some people are referring to unstable vertical speed. You would not expect a descent unless you were immediately returning, and if that was the case you wouldn’t then expect the aircraft to climb again. After takeoff aircraft either climb or fly level for a period then climb again.’
Boeing said it was ‘deeply saddened’ by news of the crash and would send technical experts to Ethiopia to help investigate the crash.
Seven British nationals were onboard the plane at the time, while there were eighteen Canadians, eight Americans and 32 Kenyan nationals.
The Daily Mail released the list of nationalities on board the Ethiopia Airlines flight:
As many as 50 delegates are believed to have been on the plane heading to the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, which begins tomorrow.