Workers gather at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (AP/PTI)

Ethiopia Aims to Send 737 Black Boxes to Europe in Snub to U.S.

(Bloomberg) -- Ethiopia will ask European air-safety experts to analyze black boxes from a crashed Boeing Co. jet in a sign U.S. authorities aren’t trusted to determine the cause of the disaster after ruling that the model is safe to fly.

The government hasn’t yet decided exactly where to send the data and voice recorders, though European bodies will be approached, Ethiopian Airlines, which operated the crashed 737 Max jet, said Wednesday. Germany said it won’t be taking the boxes, citing technical complications.

Authorities around the world have grounded the new version of the 737 amid concern that similarities between the African tragedy and an October crash in Indonesia could point to an inherent safety risk. That’s left the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration isolated in arguing that the Max should continue flying, challenging its standing as the industry’s leading regulator.

The choice of Europe over the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board for the analysis of the black boxes is a strategic decision for Ethiopian Airlines and the nation’s government, said Asrat Begashaw, the carrier’s public relations director. The country’s investigation is being led by the transport minister, he said by telephone.

The U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the French BEA both said they’ve so far had no request for help, though the AAIB would consider stepping in if asked, a spokesman said. The body has sent three experts to the crash scene, as it’s entitled to do as U.K. citizens were among those killed.

Germany’s Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation, or BFU, won’t be analyzing the boxes because it doesn’t have the technical capabilities, spokesman Germout Freitag said by telephone.

It’s unusual for black boxes -- actually orange to aid their recovery -- to be sent to a country not directly involved as the location of a crash, the place of registration of the aircraft, or in a manufacturing capacity, the AAIB said.

France has a more direct role since the Max’s Leap engines are made by the CFM International venture of General Electric Co. and Paris-based Safran SA.

Even if it requests help in downloading data and voice recordings, Ethiopia will retain control of the investigation and the relevant information, according to the AAIB. Whichever body processes the boxes, the airline and other relevant parties would attend as observers to ensure that proper protocols are followed.

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