There’s a significant difference between the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air plane crashes, which both involved the Boeing 737 Max 8

A man holds passengers' passports found at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

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A man holds passengers’ passports found at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
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REUTERS/Baz Ratner

  • The Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes both killed everyone on board and involved the new Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, but there is one clear difference between the disasters.
  • The Lion Air plane had experienced technical problems on its previous flight that left it climbing and falling so wildly that people on board vomited.
  • In contrast, no issues had been reported with the Ethiopian Airlines plane and the airline’s CEO said “the routine maintenance check didn’t reveal any problems.”
  • The investigation into the cause of the Lion Air crash is ongoing, and officials say they cannot rule out any reason for the Ethiopia Airlines crash until a probe is complete.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash are being compared as they both involved a Boeing 737 Max 8, but we already know of one major difference between the two air disasters.

The CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde GebreMariam, said that the plane, which killed all 157 on board when it crashed on Sunday, did not have any known technical issues and that there were no previous reports of issues.

GebreMariam told reporters on Monday that “the routine maintenance check didn’t reveal any problems,” CNN reported.

In contrast, the Lion Air plane, which killed all 189 people on board when it crashed into the Java Sea in October 2018, had experienced technical problems.

People walk past a part of the wreckage at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

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People walk past a part of the wreckage at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
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REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

The plane experienced out-of-control conditions on its previous flight, leaving passengers vomiting and panicking.

Read more: Passengers on the Lion Air flight before the one that crashed said the plane was climbing and falling so wildly that people on board threw up

Nurcahyo Utomo, the aviation head at Indonesia’s National Transport Safety Committee, said at the launch of a preliminary report into the crash that Lion Air had checked the jet and carried out some maintenance procedures in response to the problems before clearing it for takeoff for the fatal flight.

But Utomo said the airline should never have let it fly. He said “in our opinion, the plane was no longer airworthy and it should not have continued” after problems on its last flight the day before.

Shoes of passengers of Lion Air flight 610 are seen at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta, Indonesia, in October 2018.

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Shoes of passengers of Lion Air flight 610 are seen at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta, Indonesia, in October 2018.
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Reuters

The preliminary report did not state that the plane was not airworthy, but it did outline technical problems with the plane.

Read more: The Lion Air plane that crashed into the sea was ‘no longer airworthy,’ Indonesian officials say

Investigations into the cause of the Lion Air crash are still ongoing, and Ethiopian Airlines said it could not rule anything out as a cause until an investigation into Sunday’s crash is complete.

GebreMariam said on Monday: “As it is a fresh incident, we have not been able to determine the cause. As I said, it is a brand new airplane with no technical remarks, flown by a senior pilot and there is no cause that we can attribute at this time.”

Both crashes involved new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft

Both the Ethiopian Airlines and the Lion Air crashes involved new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. The Lion Air plane was delivered just two months before the crash, while the Ethiopian Airlines plane was delivered only in November 2018.

The Associated Press reported that investigators would look into the plane’s maintenance records and that its last maintenance was on February 4, 2018. The AP said the plane had flown a total of 1,200 hours.

A Boeing 737 Max 8.

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A Boeing 737 Max 8.
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Boeing

Boeing said it has no plans to issue any new recommendations about the aircraft to customers, and the US’s top air-safety regulator said the plane model is safe to fly.

But a number of airlines and countries have grounded the plane model after the latest crash, including Australia on Tuesday.

Read more: Some countries and airlines have grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 after a 2nd crash involving the plane killed 157 people – here’s who’s taken action so far

Boeing said it plans to send a technical team to the crash site to help investigators. It said in a statement that it was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew” on the aircraft.