On March 10, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, took off from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and almost immediately suffered flight control issues. Within five minutes of takeoff, the aircraft went down, claiming the lives of all 157 people on board. Tragic as this incident was, it didn’t take long before investigators and journalists began linking it to another crash only five months earlier. In that incident, a Lion Air-flagged Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed into the Java Sea near Indonesia shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 people aboard.
Both aircraft were Boeing 737 Max 8s. Both had been delivered only months before their deadly crashes. And now, it appears both planes shared issues with the aircraft’s flight angle just before crashing — an issue that seems to be systemic to the aircraft‘s flight management software.
According to an analysis of the cockpit recorder of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, the plane’s “angle of attack” was very similar to the data recorded from the Lion Air crash. Experts now think this flight angle issue may have been caused by a faulty angle-of-attack sensor connected to an automated system that dips the nose of the aircraft downward when the computer thinks there’s a risk of the flight angle causing a stall.
“If that’s the case, that does raise the possibility that there is a similar occurrence between the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents,” said Clint Balog, a Montana-based professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He also pointed out, however, that the investigation is still in its infancy.