Update (4:55pm ET): Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg issued the following statement regarding the report from Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges today.
First and foremost, our deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of those onboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.
Boeing continues to support the investigation, and is working with the authorities to evaluate new information as it becomes available. Safety is our highest priority as we design, build and support our airplanes. As part of our standard practice following any accident, we examine our aircraft design and operation, and when appropriate, institute product updates to further improve safety.
While investigators continue to work to establish definitive conclusions, Boeing is finalizing its development of a previously-announced software update and pilot training revision that will address the MCAS flight control law's behavior in response to erroneous sensor inputs.
We also continue to provide technical assistance at the request of and under the direction of the National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Accredited Representative working with Ethiopian investigators.
In accordance with international protocol, all inquiries about the ongoing accident investigation must be directed to the investigating authorities.
So, Boeing is "finalizing" a for its software (presumably because they found an issue in the code's logic?), but have no idea - or are unwilling to say - what the cause of the deadly crashes are?
* * *
As we detailed earlier, in perhaps the least surprising headline of the weekend, preliminary data retrieved from the flight data recorder of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed shows "a clear similarity" with an earlier disaster in Indonesia, Ethiopia's transport minister said Sunday.
As we have already pointed out, the planes in both crashes flew with erratic altitude changes that could indicate the pilots struggled to control the aircraft. Shortly after their takeoffs, both crews tried to return to the airports but crashed.
And now we have confirmation of a systemic problem for Boeing 737 Max jetliners.
AP reports that Dagmawit Moges told reporters that the Ethiopian government intends to release detailed findings within one month.
"The black box has been found in a good condition that enabled us to extract almost all the data inside," she told reporters Sunday evening.
“Clear similarities were noted between Ethiopian Air Flight 302 and Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610, which will be the subject of further study during the investigation,”
The similarities add a new level of scrutiny on the Boeing jet, and as The Wall Street Journal notes, focused most likely on the plane's software system and anti-stall technology:
Accident investigators in the probe of the earlier crash, which killed all 189 people aboard the Lion Air flight, have said they are looking the plane’s anti-stall system that repeatedly pushed the 737 MAX’s nose down. They are also looking at plane maintenance. The airline said the plane was well maintained.
The Lion Air crew battled the airplane for the 11 minutes after takeoff before the plane crashed. The system, based on erroneous sensor inputs, thought the crew was about to stall the plane and repeatedly pushed its nose down, accident investigators said in a preliminary report. The pilots tried to recover but eventually lost control.
That flight control system, called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) therefore appears to be the focus of attention for now - i.e. the software; but as we noted previously, what if this is more of a design issue?
Well, as a flight safety investigator, commercial pilot, and systems engineer, I would agree with almost all of this. I would just add that I think the Certification trick was what caused the system to be called an augmentation system when it is in fact an incidence-limiting system.
I also think the FAA are complicit in this because there is no way a safety limit system should be simplex, especially with the amount of trim authority it had. These crashes have been caused by major design decision failures, driven by cost alone, and abetted by the FAA. Several senior people in both Boeing and the FAA should be up on corporate manslaughter charges, especially after the inadequate actions after the Lion Air crash...but we all know they won't be.
Boeing has said it believes the plane is safe but nevertheless agreed with President Trump's decision on the grounding.