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Experts look into similarities between Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes

CHICAGO (March 19, 2019) – About three dozen lawsuits have been filed following the fatal crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 in Indonesia that killed 189 people last year. Now that a second Boeing aircraft has crashed in Ethiopia, plaintiffs lawyers are looking into whether there could be a connection between the two disasters.

Since Lion Air Flight 610 crashed Oct. 29 off the coast of Indonesia, roughly three dozen lawsuits have been filed against Boeing. Almost all of them have been filed in Circuit Court of Cook County or the Northern District of Illinois.

Just last week, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed on March 10 after taking off from Addis Ababa on its way to Nairobi, Kenya, killing all 157 people on board. The plane was carrying passengers from around the world, many of whom worked for the United Nations.

The FDA has since identified a number of similarities between the two crashes. First, both crashes involve the 737 Max 8 and crashed minutes after takeoff in fair weather. While the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says the plane is OK to fly, authorities in other countries,  have grounded the aircraft.

Both planes were equipped with automated flight software called the “Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System” (MCAS), a relatively new feature to Boeing’s Max planes.
The MCAS automatically lowers the nose of a plane when it receives information from its sensors that the aircraft is flying too slowly or steeply, and at risk of stalling.

In addition, both pilots reported having problems with their planes. A preliminary report by Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee said the crew of Air Lion Flight 610 struggled to override the plane’s automatic systems in the minutes before it plunged into the ocean. The system pulled the plane’s nose down more than two dozen times. A different flight crew experienced the same issue on a flight from Denpasar to Jakarta the previous day, but had turned off the MCAS and took manual control of the plane, the report said.

The Ethiopian Airlines pilot said he was having difficulties and asked to return to base. The pilot was granted permission to return to ground around the same time the flight disappeared from radar.

Lastly, both planes had experienced crews on board. The first officer of the Ethiopian Airlines flight had 350 hours of flying time and the pilot in command had 8,100 hours. The captain of the Lion Air flight had more than 6,000 flight hours, and his copilot, named Harvino, had logged more than 5,000. The FAA requires commercial pilots have at least 1,500 hours.

READ MORE | After second Boeing crash, Chicago lawyers watch and wait

Experts say the Ethiopia tragedy could affect the trajectory of the Lion Air lawsuits, based on what investigators discover.

Plaintiffs attorneys that represent victims of the Lion Air crash argue the first crash revealed a flaw that the manufacturer then should have known to fix before the second crash. But, defense lawyers for Boeing argue that no flaw existed to cause the first crash, and if it did, it was unrelated to the second crash.

While plaintiff’s lawyers will attempt to tie the two crashes together, court rules limit what evidence can be presented to a jury.

Boeing has filed a motion that the Lion Air lawsuits should be dismissed locally and moved instead to Indonesian courts.

Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard is now accepting cases for those who may have lost a loved one in a Boeing airplane crash. Please contact our office at (312) 372-1227 for a free, no-obligation case consultation.

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