Ethiopian Air 737 Crashes, Killing Everybody Onboard

Ben St. John, Journalist

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On March 10, the world was shocked by a catastrophic plane crash outside of Bishoftu in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This is one of two crashes involving the new 737 MAX-8, a successor to the 737-800. Why did this happen? What’s special about the MAX-8? Lets find out.

First, let’s talk about the differences. First off, the front five LCD panels have been replaced with 4 bigger ones, moving the backup instruments to the center of the lower cockpit panel. Also, Head-Up Displays (HUD) are now included with the plane. But, most importantly, the engines were changed from CFM-56-7s to CFM Leap 1Bs, and they were raised and moved forward. This caused the airplane to pitch up and sometimes stall. The engineers counteracted this problem by adding a system called the MCAS. The MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristic Augmentation System was designed to prevent stalls during no flap, low speed, pitched up flight. It would trim the aircraft down when it sensed a pre-stall. The full incident report hasn’t been released yet, but this is a primary suspect, and has already caused a crash earlier this year (Lion Air 610).

Now, let’s talk about the flight itself. Ethiopian airlines flight 302 was a scheduled flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya. The aircraft took off at 8:38 local time and climbed to 9000 ft AGL (above ground level). People on the ground reportedly saw white smoke as the plane’s altitude shifted and fluctuated. The plane then descended rapidly and hit the ground, killing everybody on board.

This was a terrible event, and investigators are still figuring out what happened. I will keep you all posted as more developments are made.