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Posts Tagged ‘Beirut Crash’

Unusual — 2010 Ethiopian Crash Answers Still Elusive

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on January 25, 2011

“Unusual for an investigative authority to not issue any information in the wake of a crash.”

When Ethiopian Airlines flight ET409 plunged into the sea moments after taking off from Rafik Hariri International Airport on Jan. 25 last year, there was no shortage of theories on why the plane had crashed.

The Boeing 737-800’s fate was sealed, as was claimed variously at the time, by lightning strike, poor weather, mechanical failure, loss of power, pilot error or even an onboard explosion.

The doomed flight left Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport shortly after 2:20 a.m. local time, bound for the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, following a raging thunderstorm. Eyewitnesses interviewed on the morning of the crash suggested the plane had entered the sea in flames following a bright flash of light.

What followed was confusion.

Lebanese authorities were quick to rule out terrorism as a possible factor, although this has not silenced conspiracy theorists suggesting a bomb had been placed aboard the jet before take-off. Two days after the crash, Transportation and Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi suggested that the pilot had performed “a fast and strange turn” after take-off.

Media reports in the immediate aftermath claimed that the Boeing 737-800 had suffered a double lightning hit or had fallen from the sky after both engines stalled.

One report, by Reuters, quoted a source within the investigation as saying that the crash had occurred due to pilot error after the co-pilot had failed to successfully engage the plane’s autopilot in the minutes after takeoff.

In the days following the disaster, teams of aeronautical technicians, forensic specialists and transport accident experts flew to Beirut to begin assessing information retrieved from the crash site in the eastern Mediterranean, some 4 kilometers from the town of Naameh.

Delegations from carrier Ethiopian Airlines, manufacturer Boeing, the United States’ National Transportation Safety Board and France’s Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation Civile were invited to send technical support following the location of the plane’s black box and cockpit voice flight recorders, pulled from the sea bed 13 days after the disaster.

Boeing, NTSB and BEA were chosen to spearhead the official investigation, based partly on data retrieved from the crash site, under the supervision of Lebanon’s Civil Aviation Authority, which still officially heads the probe.

It is common in civil air disasters for the investigative body to deliver some initial communiqués regarding crashes, particularly if it has reason to believe mechanical malfunction played a part.

Any message can then be distributed to airlines.

Aviation expert and pilot Joel Siegfried, who has followed the ET409 investigation closely since the accident, said it was unusual for an investigative authority to not issue any information in the wake of a crash.

I have seen such authorities issue multiple statements [following a crash], particularly if they come upon any important safety alert,” Siegfried told The Daily Star from his home in San Diego, California.

It is very unusual in a case like this for there to be no preliminary investigation report. It would say it seems clandestine, but I wouldn’t say it is inappropriate,” he added.

Following the crash of Colgan Air flight 3407 near Buffalo, N.Y., in February 2009, which came down nine kilometers short of the runway in icy conditions, the NTSB issued several safety warnings instructing pilots of the Bombardier Q400 aircraft to avoid engaging the autopilot in extremely cold weather.

By contrast, 12 months after the event, the CAA has yet to issue even rudimentary findings into the potential causes of the crash.

CAA head Hamdi Chaouk said that there was no requirement for an investigative team to issue a preliminary report. “A visit will be paid to Ethiopia at the end of this month and a final report will be written,” Chaouk told The Daily Star.

There is no deadline for finishing; it may take two or three months [more]. There is nothing called a preliminary report, but the report which was first forwarded to the [Lebanese] Cabinet included only facts [about the flight].”

Chaouk added that the relatives of crash victims would be notified when the report had been finalized.

It will be published internationally,” he said.

Attempts by The Daily Star to contact BEA went unanswered, but Boeing issued the following statement:

Accredited representatives, such as we are to this accident investigation, are forbidden from providing any information about an investigation that is being led by another country’s investigation body.”

When LBC television broadcast a two-part report on the investigation into ET409 earlier this month, it was unequivocal: The pilots were inexperienced and exhausted after having flown more than 100 hours in January, 40 more than international safety recommendations. The crash, the channel reported, had been the direct and sole result of pilot error; the captain and co-pilot’s collective inexperience was “certainly behind the accident.”

Ethiopian Airlines, which had already vehemently disputed Aridi’s claim in the wake of the crash, defended their pilot, Captain Habtamu Benti Negasa, following LBC’s dispatch.

It is disheartening to see such unsubstantiated reports issued in utter disregard to the pain and suffering of the families of the deceased while the investigation is still under way,” an airline statement said. “Ethiopian [Airlines] firmly maintains its position not to comment on the causes of the accident prior to the completion and official release of the results of the investigation, and has all the confidence that the investigation team will take all the factors into account when determining the final causes of the accident.”

The Montreal Protocol treaty, signed in 1975 and last updated in 2009, stipulates that, as far as acquiring compensation, blame in any air disaster is not apportioned; investigators need only establish the cause of a crash, not who was at fault.

The sole objective of the investigation of an accident or incident shall be the prevention of accidents and incidents,” states an International Civil Aviation Authority annex. “It is not the purpose of this activity to apportion blame or liability.”

According to James Healy-Pratt, an aviation attorney with over 20 years of experience in air crash litigation, it is nevertheless common for pilots to be the first point of culpability.

I am always reluctant to blame just the pilot, because he’s not here to defend himself,” he said.

Healy-Pratt’s London-based firm, Stewarts Law, is representing 27 families of Lebanese victims. At a news conference this week in Beirut, Healy-Pratt called for the Lebanese government to hasten investigative procedures in order to help relatives gather more information about lost loved ones.

He concluded, based on known facts regarding the last few minutes of ET409’s flight path, that the crash being due to pilot error alone was “extremely improbable.”

With such a dearth of information coming from Lebanese authorities, Healy-Pratt and colleague Peter Neenan, a physicist-cum-air crash lawyer, began compiling data from flight plans, airport runway plates and information from radar readouts in an attempt to recreate ET409’s final moments.

They discovered that the Ethiopian Airlines disaster bore remarkably similar hallmarks to the crash of Kenyan Airlines flight KQ507, which killed 114 after takeoff from Douala Airport, Cameroon, in May 2007.

Both flights involved Boeing 737-800s, relatively inexperienced pilots and both took off at night in poor, but not atrocious, weather conditions.

Pilot error was indicated in the Cameroonian CAA’s subsequent report, a document which Healy-Pratt however labeled “incomplete.”

Loss of control of the aircraft is a result of spatial disorientation … after a long slow roll, during which no instrument scanning was done, and in the absence of external visual references in a dark night,” the report said.

Inadequate operational control, lack of crew coordination, coupled with the non-adherence to procedures of flight monitoring, confusion in the utilization of the [autopilot], have also contributed to cause this situation.”

Spatial disorientation, a phenomenon which can occur while flying at night or in poor weather, is a result of the angle of flight disrupting the body’s natural balance perception. In such a case, a pilot or co-pilot may be unaware that a plane is banking, as was the case with KQ507. Although pilots are trained to ignore their bodies and focus instead on a cockpit’s central flight display, spatial disorientation has been cited in a number of crashes.

In addition, the KG507 co-pilot erroneously assumed he had engaged the plane’s autopilot. While this would have been virtually impossible on a 737’s old autopilot – which was engaged via a flick-switch and would only deploy if a plane was not performing a maneuver, the new system, with which ET409 was fitted, involves pressing a button which, as Healy-Pratt pointed out, “has less of a positive confirmation.” In other words, it is easy to assume autopilot is on when it isn’t.

ET409’s flight plan should have seen the autopilot engaged at a height of some 400 feet, after which the plane would bank to the north-west before continuing its path southward to Addis Ababa.

The autopilot should have overseen the plane banking to its starboard (right) side before eventually leveling out. But at 8,000 feet, the plane continued to roll hard to its right. This prompted a loss of lift, which saw the 737 fall rapidly out of the sky, plunging into the sea at Naameh, 4 kilometers southeast of the runway.

It is likely that the autopilot failed to engage, a fact which the pilot would have worked out from instrument panel warnings only after the plane was already in dire straits.


Source: Daily Star (Lebanon)

 

 


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Ethiopian Jet Was Bombed

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on March 28, 2010

…Terror suspect admits

British intelligence agents have reopened their investigation into the mysterious crash of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet last February after a terror suspect taken into custody in Saudi Arabia confessed it was bombed…

The information came after the mass arrest of more than 100 al-Qaida terror suspects in the Middle East.

The Boeing 737-8 plunged into the Mediterranean shortly after takeoff from Lebanon, killing all 92 passengers on board. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri blamed pilot error.

But one of the al-Qaida operatives held in a high-security prison in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, has told his British-trained interrogators that the aircraft was destroyed by an al-Qaida suicide bomber trained in a Yemeni training camp.

Source: WND

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Pilot Error, Not The Cause For Ethiopian Plane Crash

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on March 2, 2010


It was unlikely that pilot error was the single cause of the incident, Canadian aviation expert Max Vermij told reporters Monday in a news conference with US legal firm Ribbeck Law.

The loss of control in flight is nearly always initiated by a mechanical failure of the aircraft … pilot error is not the primary cause in those kind of crashes. This crash is a loss of control in flight,” said Vermij, who has over 30 years experience in investigating air disasters.

He added that the evidence so far obtained on the flight was “not in line with any type of pilot error that I have experienced.”

Continue reading…


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Is The Ethiopian Crash Turning Into a Major Scandal?

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on February 17, 2010


Airplane crashes often produce maelstroms of spin, efforts by all the parties concerned to shape the information in their favor. We are in the midst of that today over the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, and Lebanese officials are not emerging from the mess looking particularly good.

In recent days, two ministers have said contradictory things about the crash. On Tuesday, the health minister, Muhammad Jawad Khalifeh, declared that the Ethiopian airplane had been brought down by an explosion, though he hastily added that this was not the result of a bomb. A day later, the information minister, Tariq Mitri, tried to put a different interpretation on his colleague’s statement by saying that Khalifeh meant the aircraft had exploded upon impact with the sea – something the health minister decidedly had not said. Indeed, Khalifeh went to great lengths to graphically explain why the explosion had occurred in midair.

On the day of the crash, a Defense Ministry source had also indicated that the Ethiopian airliner disintegrated in the air, even as President Michel Sleiman, with no evidence in hand, was ruling out a terrorist attack. Instead, Lebanese officials began highlighting that the pilot had diverted from the flight path given to him by the control tower, while earlier this week there was an anonymous leak to Reuters, by a source allegedly “close to the investigation”, suggesting that analysis of the first black box sent to Paris indicated that pilot error was behind the downing.

We can assume that all this information is either speculative or designed to draw attention away from possible Lebanese responsibility in the catastrophe. Until a full inquiry is conducted abroad, it’s best to remain skeptical. In fact only Ethiopian Airlines has shown a modicum of seriousness until now, issuing a statement on Wednesday declaring that it did not rule out any cause for the accident, including sabotage, and that it was too early in the investigation to arrive at conclusions.

Yet there is one aspect of the case that has not been highlighted, but whose importance may yet emerge later on. It is no secret that Hezbollah has considerable sway over the airport and that the state’s exercise of authority in the facility often requires party consent. Recall the clash between the March 14-led government and Hezbollah in May 2008 over the head of airport security, Wafiq Choucair. At the time the government had dismissed him, only to see the party reverse the decision by force.

Nor has there been any news for over a year about what happened to Joseph Sader, the Middle East Airlines employee who was kidnapped within spitting distance of the airport entrance, and whose fate has been scandalously ignored by the authorities since then.

Whatever happens at the airport in light of the Ethiopian air crash will be of acute interest to Hezbollah. If the airliner was brought down because of a bomb, this could focus international attention on the facility, which may have significant consequences for how the party conducts its future affairs there. Even if the crash was the result, let’s say, of a technical mistake by the ground maintenance crew, that too has the potential of leading to growing outside demands for better supervision of the airport complex.

The Lebanese state has to be very careful – far more careful than it has been – about how it manages the situation. If there is a perception in Europe and the United States that it is trying to draw attention away from developments at the airport, thereby indirectly covering for Hezbollah, that could severely damage the government’s credibility and that of the airport itself as a reliable travel hub. The consequences for Lebanon’s aviation industry, and ultimately for tourism, could be quite damaging.

That’s not to suggest that Hezbollah had anything to do with the crash. On the contrary, the episode was surely a headache the party could have done without. And that’s assuming that someone in Hezbollah, or close to it, was not the target of a bomb attack. However, we can ask whether Hezbollah’s portraying the crash as a Shia tragedy (for in part it was) did not have something to do with its desire to compensate for the fact that anything taking place at the airport tends to be placed at the party’s door.

Or more cynically, by depicting the tragedy as one for the community, was Hezbollah warning Lebanese investigators in particular that they had better look elsewhere for the truth than within the airport’s confines?

Whatever the answer, the state has displayed borderline incompetence in the Ethiopian airline affair. From the president on down officials have repeatedly preempted the conclusions of an inquiry through statements they could not prove. But being faulted for incompetence could be the least of their worries. If they are seen in foreign capitals as having manipulated the realities of the crash for domestic political reasons, Lebanon could find itself at the center of an international scandal.

Source: Daily Star (Beirut)

Also:

Pilot body found – but Islamic Ruling to Halt Search for More Plane Crash Victims

Also:

A key piece — the memory recorder — missing from the crashed Ethiopian plane’s second black box has been recovered

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Father of Ethiopian Plane Crash Victim Dies of Grief

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on January 31, 2010

This is a very saddening and distressing situation!

The grieving father of Albert Assal, one of the Ethiopian plane crash victims whose body hasn’t been found yet, died from a heart attack on Friday. Jirji Assal was admitted to Bitar hospital in Batroun after suffering a heart attack. However, he later died. Meanwhile, the bodies of Ali Ahmed Jaber and Anna Abes, two victims of Monday’s jet crash, were handed over to their families for burial on Friday. Jaber, 40, will be buried in Nabatiyeh at 2:00pm while Abes, 37, will be laid to rest at her hometown of Tripoli’s Mina district. The body of a child, Mohammed Kreik remains at hospital because his family is awaiting for news on his father, Hassan Kreik, who was aboard the plane and is still missing. Also five bodies of Ethiopians remain at the hospital morgue. Lebanese officials plan to send a team to Ethiopia to take DNA samples of victims’ families there. Four people, including a child, were buried on Thursday. The fate of the remaining passengers remains unknown.

Source: Lebanon News

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Ethiopian, Lebanese community Relations Sour after Crash

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on January 29, 2010


After Lebanon’s Transport and Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi suggested Tuesday pilot error could have caused the crash, several Lebanese media outlets carried stories inferring Ethiopia was to blame.

The aviation discipline is such that when there is an accident, you don’t rush to conclusions, you have to wait for the investigation to be completed,” Ethiopian Airlines CEO Girma Wake told reporters on Tuesday following Aridi’s comments. “Rushing remarks, I don’t think … helps anybody.”

Message boards on Lebanese and Ethiopian websites have seen a flurry of activity, with tersely-worded accusations being hurled on either side. One commentator on the Al-Arabiya website said they believed “the Lebanese government is looking for a scapegoat” to cover up for poor airport safety.

On Monday night a regional broadcaster conducted a live interview outside the Rafik Hariri University Hospital, where bodies of the passengers are being taken. A bereaved Ethiopian who accidently walked into shot was quickly dragged out of view by the television crew.

At the hospital grounds Thursday, a group of Ethiopian women gathered to wait for news of their friends. They initially said they had been treated well by the Lebanese following the plane crash but later said they were being ignored. “There are too many problems here,” said one woman who wished to be identified as Kelile. “Many of our friends aren’t being allowed to come to the hospital. The employer of one of our friends didn’t even tell her that her sister had been onboard.”

There are around 20,000 Ethiopian migrant workers in Lebanon, mostly women who work as live-in house-keepers or nannies. According to many of those gathered outside the hospital, many of those who perished on Monday were workers who were returning home after finishing their contracts in Lebanon. Others were escaping abusive employers. “The friend I had on the plane was just released from prison,” one woman told The Daily Star, declining to identify herself or her friend. Her friend spent nine months in prison because her papers were not in order.

Pathologist Ahmad al-Muqdad told OTV the Lebanese would accept DNA samples from the Ethiopian Consulate in Beirut to help identify Ethiopian victims on board, but did not say whether genetic data would be sent to Ethiopia.

I had friends on the plane,” said Ethiopian freelance worker Desta (not her real name). “They worked hard in Lebanon and some weren’t treated well by their employers. It makes me so sad to think how much they suffered here and then, on their way home, to have this happen.”

Desta said she’d heard from other members of her community that relatives of Ethiopian passengers were put in a separate waiting room at Beirut’s international airport following the crash. “It’s as if we’ll contaminate them [the Lebanese],” she said. “But everyone is suffering. Don’t the Ethiopian families deserve respect too?”

Source: Daily Star – Lebanon

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What Caused the Ethiopian Boeing 737 to Crash?

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on January 27, 2010

There are still no answers as to what caused an Ethiopian Airlines jet to crash into the Mediterranean just off the coast of Lebanon early this morning, killing 90 people.

The Boeing 737 passenger jet took off in bad weather from the airport in Beirut heading for Addis Abeba in Ethiopia.

The jet went up in flames shortly after take-off and plunged into the sea with 90 people on board.

The plane crashed only four minutes after starting out on its journey at 2.30 am local time (1.30 am Central European Time).

Eyewitnesses reported hearing a loud noise and seeing a ball of fire in the sky. Then the Boeing 737 crashed into the middle of the sea.

A police spokesman ruled out a terror attack as the cause of the accident.

A spokesman for the airport said that the plane was clearly hit by lightning. “The weather really was very bad”, confirmed the transport minister Ghazi al-Aridi.

But German Aerospace Centre spokesman, Andreas Schuetz, said: “It is still much too early – it is nearly impossible to name the exact reason or to rule out something just a few hours after such an event”.

Lightning alone can not cause a plane to crash” said Schuetz, “it can only be a part of various other circumstances”

Source: Bild-Germany

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