Ethiopian Airlines says analysis of flight recorders begins

Framed photographs of seven crew members are displayed at a memorial service held by an association of Ethiopian airline pilots, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, March 11, 2019. (AP/Samuel Habtab)
Updated 15 March 2019
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Ethiopian Airlines says analysis of flight recorders begins

  • In Ethiopia, officials started taking DNA samples from victims’ family members to assist in identifying remains
  • The decision to send the flight recorders to France was seen as a rebuke to the United States

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: Analysis of the flight recorders of the crashed Ethiopian Airlines plane has begun, the airline said Friday, and The New York Times reported that the pilot requested permission “in a panicky voice” to return to the airport shortly after takeoff as the plane dipped up and down sharply and appeared to gain startling speed.
The report cited “a person who reviewed air traffic communications” from Sunday’s flight saying controllers noticed the plane was moving up and down by hundreds of feet.
An airline spokesman has said the pilot was given permission to return. But the plane crashed minutes later outside Addis Ababa, killing all 157 on board.
French authorities now have the plane’s flight data and voice recorders for analysis. The agency in charge of the review said it was unclear whether data could be retrieved, and tweeted a photo of the data recorder that appeared to show damage. Ethiopian Airlines said an Ethiopian delegation led by its chief accident investigator had arrived there.
In Ethiopia, officials started taking DNA samples from victims’ family members to assist in identifying remains. The dead came from 35 countries.
Countries including the United States have grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 as the US-based company faces the challenge of proving the jets are safe to fly amid suspicions that faulty software might have contributed to two crashes that killed 346 people in less than six months.
The decision to send the flight recorders to France was seen as a rebuke to the United States, which held out longer than most other countries in grounding the jets. The US National Transportation Safety Board sent three investigators to help French authorities.
Boeing executives announced that they had paused delivery of the Max, although the company planned to continue building the jets while it weighs the effect of the grounding on production.
The US Federal Aviation Administration grounded the planes Wednesday, saying regulators had new satellite evidence that showed the movements of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were similar to those of Lion Air Flight 610. That flight crashed into the Java Sea off Indonesia in October, killing 189 people.
The Max jets are likely to be idle for weeks while Boeing tries to assure regulators around the world that the planes are safe. At a minimum, aviation experts say, the plane maker will need to finish updating software that might have played a role in the Lion Air crash.
Boeing said it supports the grounding of its planes as a precautionary step, while reiterating its “full confidence” in the safety of the 737 Max. Engineers are making changes to the system designed to prevent an aerodynamic stall if sensors detect that the jet’s nose is pointed too high and its speed is too slow.
Satellite-based data showed that both the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air planes flew with erratic altitude changes that could indicate the pilots struggled to control the aircraft. Both crews tried to return to the airport.
The Max is the latest upgrade to the Boeing 737s. Because its engines were larger and heavier, they were placed higher and farther forward on the wings. That created concern that the plane might be slightly more prone to an aerodynamic stall if not flown properly, so Boeing developed software to prevent that.
Investigators looking into the Indonesian crash are examining whether the software automatically pushed the plane’s nose down repeatedly, and whether the Lion Air pilots knew how to solve that problem by throwing toggle switches and canceling the automated nose-down commands.
Ethiopian Airlines says its pilots received special training on how to deal with the Max’s anti-stall software.
At the crash site in Hejere, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Addis Ababa, searchers continued to pick through the debris. Blue plastic sheeting covered the wreckage of the plane.
Anxious family members who had begun giving DNA samples waited for news on when identification of remains would begin, and whether they would have anything to bury.
Canada’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Antione Chevrier, told The Associated Press that once the identification process begins to yield results, talks on repatriation would begin. “The next steps will take some time,” he said. Canada lost 18 people.
“We are not told what they have found so far,” Faysal Hussein, whose cousin was killed, told the AP. “We are sitting here like forever. We were taken to the crash site on Wednesday but not allowed to get a closer look. And then yesterday Ethiopian Airlines officials called us to a meeting but they don’t have anything to say. This is frustrating.”


Myanmar court jails Rakhine leader for 20 years for treason

Aye Maung, center, the former chairman of the Arakan National Party, has railed against the central government for treating the ethnic Rakhine as ‘slaves.’ (AFP)
Updated 7 min 18 sec ago
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Myanmar court jails Rakhine leader for 20 years for treason

  • Aye Maung, the former chairman of the Arakan National Party, was jailed for his allegedly inflammatory speech in January 2018
  • Aye Maung railed against the central government for treating the ethnic Rakhine as ‘slaves’

SITTWE, Myanmar: A Myanmar court on Tuesday sentenced a prominent ethnic Rakhine leader to 20 years in jail for treason, a verdict likely to intensify anger amid fighting between the ethnic group and the army.
Security forces tried to calm hundreds of supporters outside the court in Rakhine state capital Sittwe as Aye Maung was escorted to a waiting police van following the verdict.
Aye Maung, the former chairman of the Arakan National Party — which is renowned for hard-line views against the Rohingya Muslim minority — was sentenced for treason and defamation over an allegedly inflammatory speech in January 2018, a day before deadly riots.
State-backed media at the time said he railed against the central government for treating the ethnic Rakhine as “slaves” and said it was the “right time” for the community to launch an armed struggle.
The following evening, Rakhine protesters briefly seized a government building and police opened fire, killing seven people.
Aye Maung and a fellow detainee — writer Wai Hin Aung, who also gave a speech at the same rally — were detained days later.
“Both Dr. Aye Maung and writer Wai Hin Aung were sentenced to 20 years each ... for the charge of high treason and two years each for defamation of the state,” Wai Hin Aung’s defense lawyer Aye Nu Sein said.
Myanmar’s Rakhine state is cut by violence and hatred.
A brutal military crackdown in 2017 forced some 740,000 Rohingya Muslims over the border into Bangladesh.
Yet the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist population, some of whom are accused of aiding soldiers in the anti-Rohingya campaign, also feels marginalized by the state.
The lawyer said they were discussing whether to appeal.
Treason can carry the death sentence.
Supporters of the pair were enraged by the perceived persecution of two prominent Rakhine figures.
“This is not fair. This is oppression and bullying of ethnic Rakhine people,” one woman shouted in front of court, as the protesters spread to the center of the town.
In recent weeks, the military has waged war on the Arakan Army (AA), an armed group claiming to represent the ethnic Rakhine.
The group launched a brazen attack on police posts in early January that killed 13 officers and killed nine more policemen earlier this month.
The violence has spread to the ancient temple city of Mrauk U, the former capital of the Rakhine kingdom and a popular tourist site — the same town where Aye Maung gave his controversial speech last year.
Support for the AA has grown with the fighting, even though several thousand Rakhine have been forced from their homes by the violence.
A further 600,000 Rohingya remain in Rakhine without citizenship, restricted to either camps or their villages, many unable to access medical care.
Much of northern Rakhine is in lockdown and information is difficult to verify independently.