[NY Times] – Canada’s transport minister grounded all Boeing 737 Max jets, saying that newly available satellite-tracking data suggests similarities between the deadly crash involving one of the jets in Ethiopia on Sunday and another accident last October.
Cautioning that the “new information is not conclusive,” Marc Garneau, the transport minister, on Wednesday also said that Canada would not allow the jets to fly into its airspace.
Sunday’s accident followed another deadly crash in Indonesia in October involving a jet flown by Lion Air. Investigators have raised the possibility that a new flight-control system could have contributed to that earlier accident. In both cases, the jets crashed just minutes after erratic takeoffs.
The move adds pressure on the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing, which so far have resisted calls to ground the jet. The F.A.A. has said it has seen “no systemic performance issues” that would prompt it to do so.
It could still be weeks before investigators are able to point to the likely cause of the latest crash. Safety regulators in some 42 countries have now banned flights by the jets, with some citing concerns that pilots would be unable to handle the aircraft if they were given inaccurate signals from key flight instruments.
One of the two pilots of the Ethiopian Airlines flight reported “flight-control problems” to air traffic controllers minutes before the plane crashed. This suggests that a problem with the handling of the aircraft or the computerized flight control system was a factor.
The pilot told controllers that he wanted to turn back to Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa and was cleared to do so, three minutes before contact was lost with the cockpit, a spokesman for the airline said on Wednesday.
The Ethiopian Airlines spokesman, Asrat Begashaw, said Ethiopia would ask a foreign country for help analyzing the flight data and voice recorders, known as the black boxes, recovered from the wreckage. He said the airline had not yet decided where to send the black boxes.
The two recorders must be taken to a specialized center to read their data, said Lynnette Dray, an aviation expert and senior research associate at University College London.
“If the boxes are intact, then they will be able to take the data off them and look at it immediately,” Dr. Dray said.