Aircraft investigation team collects information in Addis Ababa

January 31st, 2011 | by addis portal |

January 29, 2011Kaleyesus Bekele

The investigation team on the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 jetlinner that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea shortly after takeoff the Raffik Hariri Beirut International Airport in January last year arrived in Addis Ababa on Monday.

The investigation comprising ten aviation experts held a series of meetings with senior officials of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and representatives of the Ethiopian Airlines this week at the authority’s head office. Reliable sources told The Reporter that in the course of the meetings officials of CAA told the investigation team (3 Americans, 3 French, 2 Lebanese and 2 Ethiopians) that both the Ethiopian Airlines and CAA have provided all the information requested by the team and the Lebanese Works and Transport Ministry. However, they said, the Lebanese side has been reluctant to present the relevant information to the investigation team as well as to the Ethiopian and CAA. Sources said there was a heated debate on the matter.

According to sources, the team explained that it came to Addis Ababa as part of the ongoing investigation process. The team said upon finalizing data collection in Lebanon, it came to Addis Ababa to gather relevant information. The Ethiopian authorities said the team was welcome to visit the CAA and the headquarters of Ethiopian Airlines, however, they said the Lebanese authorities should also do the same.

The team interviewed traffic controllers and other aviation professionals at CAA and some pilots and aircraft maintenance technicians of the Ethiopian Airlines on issues related to flight safety. The interviews were conducted at the headquarters of CAA. The team visited the facilities of Ethiopian and CAA. The interviews were being conducted until yesterday.

The Reporter two weeks ago reported that the investigation team will arrive on January 24 and the interim report on Flight ET 409 would be released on the following day. The Lebanese Works and Transport Ministry confirmed this report. Though the team arrived on the stated day, the ministry did not release the report so far. The ministry did not give explanations as to why it failed to release the report. The ICAO convention says the interim report on any aircraft accident should be issued within 30 days.

“The investigation team submitted the report to them within the deadline. However, they did not release it for the reason we do not know,” sources told The Reporter. “The Lebanese authorities have been hiding relevant information requested by the investigation team and Ethiopian Airlines and this has hampered the investigation process,” sources said.

The Lebanese government has collapsed two weeks ago when 11 cabinet ministers pulled out and the country is in a serious political crisis. Observers say, the Lebanese transport ministry failed to release the interim report on January 25 due to the political turmoil unfolding in that country adding that the secret behind the ET 409 accident is one of the causes for the turmoil, among other things.

Officials at Ethiopian and CAA declined to comment on the matter saying that the ICAO regulations prohibit them to make statements on the cause of the accident before the investigation was finalized. “We abide by the law though some of the Lebanese authorities have been violating the ICAO rules and made speculative and misleading statements.”

Sources said the investigation team has been working on four core points that could give a lead to the cause of the accident-sabotage, technical ( failure with the aircraft), human factor (pilot error) and external factor (the aircraft has been hit by external matter). Sources close the investigation process said the Lebanese authorities have been covering up information while the team was working on sabotage and external factor. On the other hand executives of Boeing are defending the jetliner.

Sources said the Lebanese authorities refused to present recorded materials by the CCTV at the Beirut Raffik Hariri International Airport, profiles of passengers onboard the ill fated ET Flight 409, airport security information including recorded materials by the traffic control of the airport, and x-rays of luggages. They also did not submit the information related to the Etihad Airways Airbus A319 Flight EX533 that was misguided by the airport’s traffic control to the airport and came in close proximity to ET409. The Etihad’s aircraft inbound from Abu Dhabi International Airport intercepted ET409. The Captain of the A319 aircraft saw what happened to the Ethiopian jetliner. However, the Lebanese authorities did not allow representatives of Ethiopian and CAA to interview the cockpit crew of the EX533. They have also hidden the whereabouts of another eyewitness (one of the traffic controllers) who was on duty at the tower when the Ethiopian aircraft turned into a ball of fire and plunged to the Mediterranean Sea. “Their effort to hide information has made us more suspicious,” a source close to the investigation process said. “We suspect that the aircraft was bombed or hit by a rocket,” he added.

Sources said the Lebanese authorities adamantly refuse to avail information that are crucial to the investigation process. The Ethiopian government officials, executives of Ethiopian Airlines and CAA are infuriated by the Lebanese authorities, particularly the Ministry of Urban Works and Transport.

According to another sources, the investigation process has four phases-Data collection, analysis, conclusion and recommendation. The status of the investigation process on ET409 accident is on data collection. “It is just the first phase that has been finalized, data collection. The data is not yet analyzed. So it is not appropriate for anyone to conclude on the cause of the accident,” these sources said.

“While this was the case Lebanese authorities have been leaking erroneous information to the Lebanese media,” sources added.

The Boeing 737-800 jetlinner that took off from the Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport was destroyed when it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, some 3.5 km offshore from the coastal village of Naameh, south of Beirut. Beirut authorities told the international media that after flying for two minutes under a heavy rain and thunder storm being guided by the flight control, the plane lost contact with the control tower. Ninety people on board the plane-82 passengers and eight Ethiopian crew members perished in the accident. Out of the total number of passengers 23 were Ethiopians, 52 Lebanese, 1 Turkish, 1 French, 2 British, 1 Russian, 1 Syrian, 1 Iraqi nationals.

Be Sociable, Share!

You must be logged in to post a comment.