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Pilot of crashed Ethiopian Airlines jet reported flight-control issues: WSJ

Matina Stevis-Gridneff | Wall Street Journal/Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 13 Mar 19 | 05:01 PM

Ethiopian Federal policemen stand at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: Reuters

The pilot of the Ethiopian Airlines jet that crashed on Sunday reported that he was having flight-control problems and wanted to return to the airport, the chief executive of the airline said.

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In recordings of the pilot’s conversations with controllers, he didn’t indicate any external problems with the jet or the flight, like a bird collision, CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told The Wall Street Journal.

The pilot “reported back to air-traffic controllers that he was having flight-control problems" and wanted to return to Addis Ababa, Gebremariam said.

The executive said he had listened to the recording and there were no other problems cited by the pilot.

Gebremariam said the black boxes recovered from the jet would be sent to Europe for analysis, although a final determination as to which country hasn’t been made.

He said the UK, France and Germany were being considered, as well as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency based in Cologne, Germany, and that a decision would be made Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that US and Ethiopian officials were discussing the destination of the black boxes, with American officials quietly pushing for them to be sent to the US.

Black boxes are devices that contain voice recordings and data from the flight that are crucial in any crash investigation. Downloading the data takes technical expertise and equipment that only a few countries possess.

The Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX crashed shortly after takeoff while on a scheduled Addis Ababa-Nairobi flight, killing all 157 people on board.

Boeing has maintained the jet is safe to fly after Sunday’s crash in Ethiopia and the crash of another 737 MAX 8 in Indonesia in October.

The US Federal Aviation Administration reiterated Tuesday that the aircraft is safe.

“Our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft," the agency said. U.S. carriers, sticking by the FAA guidance, have said they have no plans to ground flights.

(Yohannes Anberbir contributed to the article.)

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