At a news conference on Thursday, Dagmawit Moges, Ethiopia’s minister of transportation, said the flight crew had “performed all the procedures, repeatedly, provided by the manufacturer, but were not able to control the aircraft.”
The report, which could change in the coming months when it’s completed, doesn’t rule out the potential for pilot error in the Ethiopian crash. And some pilots in the United States raised doubts about whether the problems on board had been properly handled.
“They did not follow the Boeing procedures,” said Hart Langer, a former Pan Am pilot and United Airlines executive. If the pilots had used the electric controls to pull the nose up more, he said, they would have been able to recover the plane.
“Had they done that, it would have cut out the MCAS input,” he said.
When Boeing outlined the emergency process in November after the Lion Air disaster, many pilots were confident that the new instructions were enough to avoid a crash. However, pilots didn’t test the updated procedures in flight simulators, because few airlines had them for the 737 Max.
The problems with the Ethiopian Airlines flight started almost immediately after takeoff, according to the report, amplifying the pressure for pilots to act. About two minutes after takeoff, a safety system warned, “Don’t sink,” multiple times.
A sensor that measures the angle at which the plane is flying began producing erroneous readings, suggesting that the plane was about to stall. There are two so-called angle of attack sensors on the plane, and the one on the left began giving readings nearly 60 degrees different from the one on the right. The faulty data activated the software that automatically pushed down the nose of the plane.