The doomed Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed on Sunday was in trouble almost immediately after takeoff as it lurched up and down by hundreds of feet at a time, the New York Times
reported, citing a person who reviewed the jet’s air traffic communications.
The captain of the Boeing Co. 737 Max 8 asked in a panicky voice to turn back only three minutes into the flight as the plane accelerated to abnormal speeds, the newspaper reported.
All contact with Flight 302 was lost five minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa and even before the captain’s radio message, controllers knew he had an emergency, according to the newspaper.
The March 10 crash, the second involving Boeing’s 737 Max in less than five months, triggered a wave of groundings for the plane by airlines and regulators around the world and U.S. authorities finally followed them on Wednesday.
The exact nature of the flight’s problems is key because investigators are trying to establish whether the crash, which killed all 157 people aboard, is linked to an October disaster in Indonesia involving the same model of plane.
Regulators in the U.S. and Canada have said the profiles of the two short flights are similar, but haven’t yet concluded they were caused by the same problem. The Lion Air flight in Indonesia descended and climbed more than two dozen times as pilots fought against the plane’s automated safety system that was trying to push down the nose.
The voice and data recorders from the Ethiopian Airlines plane have been flown to Paris for investigation.