Ethiopian airlines crash: Experts look at possible causes
An Ethiopian Airlines plane carrying 90 people caught fire and crashed into the sea just after taking off from Beirut early Monday. Experts speculate that an engine malfunctioned – possibly caused by a bird strike – shortly after take off.
(Page 2 of 2)
Sidney Dekker, a professor of flight safety at the School of Aviation at Lund University in Sweden, said the rudder problem has been corrected by the manufacturer and that he’d be “hugely surprised” if it had anything to do with the crash.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Mr. Dekker, himself a 737 pilot, said that if reports of an engine fire proved to be correct, the accident could have possibly resulted from a loss of control at relatively low altitude.
He noted that the 737’s engines were overpowered in order to fulfill single-engine takeoff performance requirements. “This tends to produce a turning movement toward the dead engine in the case of the loss of a powerplant at takeoff,” he said.
Poor visibility in low cloud combined with high winds may have contributed to the problem faced by the pilots, he said.
Aviation safety analyst Chris Yates said it was far too early to say what caused the crash, but he noted that modern aircraft are built to withstand all but the foulest weather conditions.
“One wouldn’t have thought that a nasty squall in and of itself would be the prime cause of an accident like this,” said Yates, an analyst based in Manchester, England. He noted that reports of fire could suggest “some cataclysmic failure of one of the engines” or that something had been sucked into the engine, such as a bird or debris.
Ethiopian Airlines has long had a reputation for high-quality service compared to other African airlines, with two notable crashes in more than 20 years.
A hijacked Ethiopian Airlines jet crash-landed off the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean when it ran out of fuel in November 1996, killing 126 of the 175 people aboard. In September 1988, an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed shortly after taking off when it ran into a flock of birds, killing 31 of the 104 people on board.
Boeing said it is coordinating with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to assist Lebanese authorities in the investigation.
Associated Press writers Zeina Karam and Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Slobodan Lekic in Brussels, Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus and Samson Haileyesus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia contributed to this report.