ET 409: Report blames pilot error for Ethiopia Airlines crash


The crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane off the coast of Lebanon two years ago which killed all 90 people on board was caused by pilot error, according to a Lebanese report on Tuesday which was challenged by the airline.

The Boeing 737-800 plane, bound for Addis Ababa, crashed minutes after taking off from Beirut in stormy weather on January 25, 2010.

“The probable causes of the accident were the flight crew’s mismanagement of the aircraft’s speed, altitude, headings and (direction) through inconsistent flight control inputs resulting in a loss of control,” said the report by Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

It said the captain’s high workload and stress levels may have led to him losing “situational awareness”.

Ethiopian Airlines dismissed the report, saying investigators ignored evidence including security footage, autopsies, baggage screening, and had declined to provide detailed profiles of passengers.

“We are not surprised that the investigation process in the last couple of years was used only to justify the speculation (that pilot error was to blame) made publicly before the beginning of the investigation process,” the airline’s chief executive officer, Tewolde Gebremariam, said in Addis Ababa.

The Lebanese army said at the time that the plane had broken up in the air before plummeting into rough seas. One witness described the impact as a “flash that lit up the whole sea”.

“The last cockpit voice recording was also a loud noise which sounds like an explosion,” said Desta Zeru, vice president of flight operations. “These facts indicate that the aircraft disintegrated in the air due to explosion, which could have been caused by a shoot-down, sabotage, or lightning strike.”

The eight-year-old plane, carrying mostly Lebanese and Ethiopian passengers, last had a maintenance check a month before the crash and no technical problems had been found, officials said after the crash.