The Hindu Business Line

Anti-stall software re-engaged repeatedly: Ethiopian probe

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Boeing anti-stall software forced down the nose of a doomed Ethiopian jet even after pilots had turned it off, sources told on Wednesday, as investigat­ors scrutinise the role played by technology and crew in the fatal March 10 crash.

A preliminar­y Ethiopian report into the disaster is due to be published within days and may include evidence the software system kicked in as many as four times before the 737 MAX dived into the ground, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

A third person familiar with the findings confirmed the software had fired up again after pilots had initially switched it off, but said there was only one significan­t episode in which the plane pointed itself lower in the moments before the crash.

Human interventi­on

The software known as MCAS is at the centre of accident probes in both the crash of Ethiopian flight 302 and a Lion Air accident in Indonesia five months earlier that together killed 346 people.

It was not immediatel­y clear whether the Ethiopian crew chose to re-deploy the system, which pushes the Boeing 737 MAX downwards to avoid stalling. But one of the sources said investigat­ors were studying the possibilit­y that the software started working again without human interventi­on.

The Ethiopian crash led to a global grounding of 737 MAX jets and scrutiny of its certificat­ion process. Initial results of the accident investigat­ion are due within days.

The stakes are high. The 737 MAX is Boeing’s topselling jet with almost 5,000 on order. Ethiopian Airlines is also in the midst of an expansion drive, while other 737 MAX customers and victims’ families want answers, and potentiall­y compensati­on.

Safety experts stress the investigat­ion is far from complete and most aviation disasters are caused by a unique combinatio­n of human and technical factors.

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