A year ago today, desperate pilots on the flight deck of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max reactivated the aircraft’s MCAS, leading to a catastrophic crash which killed 157 people and triggered the global grounding of the jet.
An interim report from Ethiopia's Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau published on Monday found that there were design failures in Boeing’s jet and inadequate training for pilots.
Boeing’s Max remains grounded 12 months on from the Ethiopian flight 302 crash and is expected to undergo a key certification flight in April in a bid to clear the jet for service by the summer.
According to the new report, pilots on the Ethiopian Airlines aircraft violated protocol by reactivating MCAS software, sending the plane into a sharp dive that could not be corrected by pilots forcefully pulling on the controls.
The new report notes down the final exchanges between Captain Yared Getachew and First Officer Ahmednur Mohammed, with Yared urging Ahmednur to “keep with me” as Ahmednur struggled to control the aircraft. Both men applied force to the control column but were unable to pull the plane from its dive.
Ethiopian investigators found that the MCAS system “made it vulnerable to undesirable activation” and the report says that training provided by Boeing on the 737 Max “was found to be inadequate”.
One of the major selling points of the Max had been its similarity to older 737s and the notion that pilots did not require simulator training to switch to the new aircraft.
In a statement, Boeing said it is providing technical assistance to support the investigation and will be reviewing the full details and formal recommendations included in the report.
The report made six recommends, all aimed at Boeing or the FAA, including that training simulators need to be capable of simulating scenarios in which the sensors fail. There were no recommendations for Ethiopian Airlines, which has defended the actions of its pilots.