Ethiopian 737 Max Initial Crash Report Set to Be Released Thursday

(Bloomberg) -- Ethiopia said it will release a preliminary report Thursday into last month’s crash of a Boeing Co. 737 Max jetliner that killed 157 people, grounded the plane worldwide and raised questions about the relation between U.S. regulators and the aircraft maker.

The plunge shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 was the second fatal accident in less than five months of a Boeing 737 Max 8, following a crash into the Java Sea in October.

The March 10 disaster triggered groundings worldwide for the aircraft that’s a leading seller for Boeing, and sparked probes into how regulators cleared the plane to fly. The initial findings may explain whether a computerized anti-stall system that can push the plane’s nose down is suspected of playing a role. The system activated on the doomed Lion Air flight in Indonesia five months earlier.

The Ethiopian Transport Ministry set a press conference for 10:30 a.m. in the capital of Addis Ababa to present the report, ministry spokesman Musie Yheyies said in an email.

According to people briefed on the probe, investigators working on the Ethiopian Airlines crash concluded that the anti-stall system had activated on the flight and they are searching for a key piece of equipment that might explain why.

Pilots on the flight followed procedures set by Boeing to manually disable the automated anti-stall system as they tried to save the 737 Max jet, a person familiar with the situation said.

Boeing and aviation regulators made a point of telling airlines worldwide how to disarm the system following the Lion Air disaster.

In the U.S., the Transportation Department has ordered a full audit of the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2017 certification of the Max and the Justice Department is also investigating.

Preliminary data from the Max’s black-box recorder indicates that the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS, was pushing the plane’s nose down during the March 10 disaster, said people who asked not to be named because the findings weren’t yet public.

Boeing has spent months refining the 737 Max’s software since data from the Lion Air crash indicated the stall-avoidance system had repeatedly tipped the nose down before pilots lost control. Boeing was close to a software fix when the Ethiopian Airlines jet went down.

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