Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ethiopian plane crash report still pending

An official report on the Ethiopian Airlines crash off Beirut that claimed 90 lives is due to appear later this year, nearly 22 months after the disaster took place.
Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi said Wednesday a final report on the circumstances of the crash, minutes after taking off from Rafik Hariri International Airport in January 2010, would soon be released.
“We have all the information. And we’re quite sure it’s accurate,” Aridi said during a news conference at the airport, adding that his ministry would receive the joint investigation committee’s final draft on Aug. 10.
After that, he explained, the committee would have a period of 60 days to issue a final report.
“We cannot unilaterally announce the content as we are only a part of the investigation committee,” Aridi said, warning that “if any [further] delay happens … we will present the results.”
The joint investigation committee, managed by Lebanon’s Civil Aviation Authority, is composed of Lebanese and Ethiopian representatives, along with individuals representing Boeing, the plane’s manufacturer.
But well-informed sources told The Daily Star that Aridi had been informed by a member of the investigation committee that the final report would not be finalized before “at least one month, if not more.”
The plane crashed into the Mediterranean less than four minutes after takeoff, after performing two maneuvers ordered by Beirut’s Air Traffic Control team. All 90 people aboard were killed.
Data contained in flight recorders retrieved from the crash site show how the aircraft turned slightly immediately after leaving runway 21, before being instructed to bank reasonably hard to its left.
It was during this move that the plane got into trouble, plunging 8,000 feet (2,432 meters) before disappearing from radar screens.
A statement aiming at presenting the different stages of the investigation’s advancement since Feb. 10 – when the last report was issued – was released during the conference.
The report said the investigation committee had recently received three reports on the analysis of the trim tab part of the plane’s rear, in an operation conducted in cooperation with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, and were expecting the final report to be release Aug. 10.
The NTBS also analyzed black spots found near the hot air exits of the auxiliary power unit, and discovered the spots weren’t caused by fire or hot temperature but oil.
The report also stated that the French Bureau of Investigations and Analysis for Civil Aviation’s Safety, working in cooperation with Boeing, were unable to recover a damaged segment on one of the retrieved five cockpit voice recorders.
During a news conference in February, Aridi had already said he knew the causes of the crash, but was waiting for an agreement between the Lebanese Civil Aviation Authority, Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing to be finalized before releasing the ministry’s final report.
At the time, he said a full analysis into the causes behind flight ET409’s crash would be available before the end of July.
The minister said he wanted “to assure people that our commitment [to finding out exactly what happened] will not be abandoned.”
“We call on the Lebanese to be patient and to avoid drawing conclusions,” he added.