Boeing says it is sending a technical team to the site of the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that killed 157 people, including 18 Canadians.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Bole Airport in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi.
In Canada, both WestJet and Air Canada use the aircraft — Air Canada says they have performed safely and reliably, and WestJet says it will not speculate on the cause of the incident.
Air Canada said it has offered its assistance in the investigation. The airline said it has operated the same type of passenger jet since 2017, when the model entered commercial use, and currently has 24 in its fleet.
“These aircraft have performed excellently from a safety, reliability and customer satisfaction perspective,” an Air Canada spokesperson said in an emailed statement to CBC News.
WestJet said it has 13 of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in its fleet.
Ethiopian authorities say the pilot sent out a distress call and was given clearance to return.
Records show the plane was new and had been delivered to the airline in November.
The aircraft was also involved in a Lion Air crash in October when a two-month-old plane plunged into the Java Sea minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing 189 people.
Questions about aircraft model
Sunday’s crash is likely to renew questions about the 737 Max, the newest version of Boeing’s popular single-aisle airliner.
Indonesian investigators have not determined a cause for the October crash in Indonesia, but days after the accident Boeing sent a notice to airlines that faulty information from a sensor could cause the plane to automatically point the nose down. The notice reminded pilots of the procedure for handling such a situation.
The Lion Air cockpit data recorder showed that the jet’s airspeed indicator had malfunctioned on its last four flights, though the airline initially said problems with the aircraft had been fixed before it left the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.
Safety experts cautioned against drawing too many comparisons between the two crashes until more is known about Sunday’s disaster.
The Ethiopian Airlines CEO “stated there were no defects prior to the flight, so it is hard to see any parallels with the Lion Air crash yet,” said Harro Ranter, founder of the Aviation Safety Network, which compiles information about accidents worldwide.
‘We cannot rule out anything’
As sunset approached at the crash site, searchers and a bulldozer picked through the wreckage of the plane, which shattered into small pieces.
Photos from the scene showed multicoloured pieces of the jet strewn across freshly churned earth. Red Cross teams and others were searching a large area for human remains. In one photo, teams could be seen loading black plastic bags into trucks.
The airline published a photo showing its CEO standing in the wreckage.
Accident Bulletin no. 2<br>Issued on march 10, 2019 at 01:46 PM <a href=”https://t.co/KFKX6h2mxJ”>pic.twitter.com/KFKX6h2mxJ</a>
State-owned Ethiopian Airlines is widely considered the best-managed airline in Africa and calls itself Africa’s largest carrier. It has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent and is known as an early buyer of new aircraft.
“Ethiopian Airlines is one of the safest airlines in the world. At this stage we cannot rule out anything,” CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said.
Some of those aboard were thought to be travelling to a major United Nations environmental meeting scheduled to start Monday in Nairobi.
Last maintenance was Feb. 4
The jet’s last maintenance was on Feb. 4, and it had flown just 1,200 hours. The pilot was a senior aviator, joining the airline in 2010, the CEO said.
The Boeing 737 Max 8 was one of 30 being delivered to the airline, Boeing said in a statement in July when the first was delivered.
Boeing said its technical team was ready to provide assistance at the request of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
The last deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger flight was in 2010, when a plane went down minutes after takeoff from Beirut, killing all 90 people on board.
African air travel, long troubled and chaotic, has improved in recent years, with the International Air Transport Association in November noting “two years free of any fatalities on any aircraft type.”
Sunday’s crash comes as Ethiopia’s reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has vowed to open up the airline and other sectors to foreign investment in a major transformation of the state-centred economy.
Ethiopian Airlines’ expansion has included the recent opening of a route to Moscow and the inauguration in January of a new passenger terminal in Addis Ababa to triple capacity.
Speaking at the inauguration, the prime minister challenged the airline to build a new “Airport City” terminal in Bishoftu — where Sunday’s crash occurred.
This story originally appeared on CBC