Investigators have recovered both black boxes from the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 that crashed just outside Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all 157 on board.

Rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday, March 11, 2019.
Rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday, March 11, 2019. (AP)

Ethiopian Airlines confirmed on Monday that both black boxes from the crashed Ethiopian Airlines plane had been recovered.

The cockpit voice recorder and the digital flight data recorder from the flight that crashed on Sunday have both been recovered from the crash site, the airline said in a statement.

The plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday en route to Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board.

Ethiopia is observing a national day of mourning as investigators search for bodies and clues into the crash. 

Ethiopian Airlines said it will work with Boeing, the national civil aviation authority and international experts in trying to unravel what caused the brand new plane to come down just six minutes into its flight.

Eight crew and 149 passengers from 35 countries perished when Flight ET 302 ploughed into a field near Tulu Fara village outside the town of Bishoftu, some 60 kilometres southeast of Addis Ababa.

A witness said the plane came down in flames.

"The plane was already on fire when it crashed to the ground. The crash caused a big explosion," Tegegn Dechasa recounted at the site, littered with passenger belongings, human remains, and airplane parts around a massive crater at the point of impact.

"The plane was in flames in its rear side shortly before the crash. The plane was swerving erratically before the crash."

A local farmer, Sisay Gemechu, said, "The plane seemed to be aiming to land at a nearby level open field, but crashed before reaching there."

TRT World 's Natasha Hussain reports. 

China, Ethiopian Airlines ground 737 Max fleet

China's civilian aviation authority on Monday ordered all Chinese airlines to temporarily ground their Boeing 737 Max 8 planes after the crash. 

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said the order was taken out of safety concerns because the Ethiopian crash was the second in similar circumstances since the Indonesian crash in December also killed everyone aboard.

It said further notice would be issued after consultation with the US  Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing on safety measures taken.

Eight Chinese nationals were among the 157 people aboard.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Airlines on Monday also grounded its Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet.

"Following the tragic accident of ET 302... Ethiopian Airlines has decided to ground all B-737-8 MAX fleet effective yesterday, March 10, until further notice," the state-owned carrier said in a statement released on Twitter.

UN staff were among the passengers 

Among the dead were tourists, business travellers, and UN staff, including some who worked for the World Food Programme, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the international Organisation for Migration.

The IOM said in a statement early indications were that 19 staff members of UN-affiliated organisations perished in the crash.

Many were headed for an annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme, which opens in Nairobi on Monday with some 4,700 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, senior UN officials and civil society representatives.

Ethiopian Airlines, the continent's biggest carrier, said, "The search will continue in the morning."

"A committee comprising of Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and Ethiopian Transport Authority has been set up to carry out the investigations," it added.

"Once the ... deceased are identified, their bodies will be delivered to their families and loved ones."

The US National Transportation Safety Board said it would send investigators to assist, and Canada, which lost 18 citizens, said consular officials were "immediately deployed" to Addis Ababa to determine the facts.

Ethiopia's parliament declared a national day of mourning for Monday amid a global stream of condolences.

Cockpit data recorder

The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines calls itself Africa's largest carrier and has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent. 

Records show that the plane was new. The Planespotters civil aviation database shows that the Boeing 737-8 MAX was delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in mid-November.

Boeing said it was "deeply saddened" by the crash.

The cockpit data recorder showed that the jet's airspeed indicator had malfunctioned on its last four flights, though Lion Air initially claimed that problems with the aircraft had been fixed.

The last deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was in 2010, when the plane crashed minutes after takeoff from Beirut killing all 90 people on board.

The plane is the same type as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed in October, 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.

Ethiopian Airlines said the plane had taken off at 8:38 am (0538 GMT) on Sunday from Bole International Airport and "lost contact" six minutes later.

TRT World's Narkwor Kwabla has the story.


According to the airline, Kenya had the largest number of casualties with 32, followed by Canada with 18, Ethiopia nine, then Italy, China, and the United States with eight each.

Britain and France each had seven people on board, Egypt six, and Germany five – though the breakdown was not final.

France's government later said there were eight French victims.

African Union commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat spoke of "utter shock and immense sadness," while Mahboub Maalim, executive secretary of the IGAD East African bloc, said the region and the world were in mourning.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his British counterpart Theresa May both described the news as "devastating."

Sympathy messages also came from the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Germany, France and the United States.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said the plane had flown in from Johannesburg earlier Sunday, spent three hours in Addis and was "despatched with no remark," meaning no problems were flagged.

Asked if the pilot had made a distress call, the CEO said, "The pilot mentioned that he had difficulties and he wants to return. He was given clearance" to turn around.

TRT World spoke to journalist Coletta Wanjohi for the latest.

Lucky passenger who missed the flight 

Ahmed Khalid missed the flight ET302 due to a delay in the first flight from Dubai to Addis Ababa. He was asked to take the next flight.

''My flight was from Dubai to Addis Ababa and then from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, but because of the delay from Dubai, I missed the first flight [to Nairobi]. So, when I reached Addis Ababa they told me to take the second flight, which is at 11 o'clock [local time] and I said it's fine.''

"They [crew] were just going up and down until one passenger saw on his mobile that the first plane which had just flew, like six minutes after it flew, it just crashed.''

TRT World spoke to aviation expert Desmond Rose.

Reforms in aviation sector 

Sunday's crash comes as the country's reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has vowed to open up the airline and other sectors to foreign investment in a major transformation of the state-centered economy.

Ethiopian Airlines has been expanding assertively, recently opening a route to Moscow and in January inaugurating a new passenger terminal in Addis Ababa to triple capacity.

Speaking at the inauguration, the prime minister challenged the airline to build a new "Airport City" terminal in Bishoftu‚ where Sunday's crash occurred.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies