Boeing 737 Max: Battle Brews over Who Should Analyze Black Boxes from Ethiopian Air Crash

March 13, 2019, 12:05 PM UTC

Ethiopia’s aviation authority is unable to read the black box recorders from the Boeing 737 Max plane that crashed Sunday, but a row is brewing over just where the flight recorders will be sent for analysis.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is pushing to have its experts analyze the data and voice recorders, which were partly damaged, the Wall Street Journal reports, but Ethiopian authorities would prefer to work with the U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch to ensure that U.S. experts won’t have undue influence in the probe of the American-made plane.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told WSJ that the U.K., France and Germany were being considered as destinations for the black boxes, as was the European Union Aviation Safety Agency based in Cologne. He added that a decision would be made Wednesday.

Aviation authorities worldwide are anxiously awaiting the data from the black box recorders, hoping it will give answers as to why Boeing’s (BA) best-selling model has been involved in two major crashes in the past six months.

Ethiopian Airlines’ recently acquired Boeing 737 Max 8 was flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya, when it crashed six minutes into its flight, killing all 157 people on board. The Lion Air plane that crashed 12 minutes into its flight in Indonesia in October, killing 189 people, was the same model.

The preliminary investigation into the Lion Air crash, aided by Australian experts, focused on a malfunctioning sensor and computer system that pushed down the plane’s nose.

Boeing maintains that the aircraft is intrinsically safe, but aviation authorities around the world are grounding the 737 Max out of caution. The United States is now one of the few countries allowing the planes to fly. Wired reports that the Federal Aviation Authority, which is on the ground in Ethiopia with the NTSB, says its review “thus far shows no systematic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding aircraft.”