What went wrong: It wasn’t clear what exactly caused the Boeing 737 Max 8 to go down in clear weather. But the pilot sent out a distress call and got clearance to return to the airport.
This is all too familiar
It’s the second deadly accident in five months for this model of Boeing’s best-selling jet. The Lion Air plane that plummeted into the Java Sea near Indonesia in October (killing 189 people) was also a Boeing 737 Max 8.
Both were brand-new planes. Both failed minutes after takeoff. Both left no survivors.
“It’s highly suspicious...Here we have a brand-new aircraft that’s gone down twice in a year. That rings alarm bells in the aviation industry, because that just doesn't happen,” said CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo.
The mega-popular plane—a redesigned (and re-engined) version of the model that’s “formed the backbone of global fleets for five decades,” writes Bloomberg—started commercial service less than two years ago. Customers including Southwest, United, Ryanair, and more have made the model Boeing’s fastest-selling plane in history.
Zoom out: While the Lion Air crash was the first fatal one for this model, questions are still swirling around that disaster. Investigations into plane crashes typically take months, but authorities will surely be looking for any link between the two tragedies.
As for Ethiopian Airlines…
The deadly crash is a major setback for the rapidly expanding carrier.Ethiopian Airlines has recently outpaced its rivals in Africa to build the capital city of Addis Ababa into a major aviation hub—and even steal some business from Dubai-based Emirates.
And on a continent with a pretty dismal aviation safety record, Ethiopian Airlines has enjoyed a strong reputation. It’s a codeshare partner with United, a member of the Star Alliance, and Africa's only consistently profitable carrier.