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Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409
Boeing 737-8AS ET-ANB Ethiopian Airlines.jpg
ET-ANB, the aircraft involved in the crash, seen 2 months before the accident
Accident
Date25 January 2010
SummaryCrashed shortly after take-off due to pilot error, fatigue, and poor crew resource management
SiteMediterranean Sea, 3.5 km (2.2 mi; 1.9 nmi) off the coast of Na'ameh, Lebanon
33°45′28″N 35°25′49″E / 33.75778°N 35.43028°E / 33.75778; 35.43028Coordinates: 33°45′28″N 35°25′49″E / 33.75778°N 35.43028°E / 33.75778; 35.43028
Aircraft
Aircraft typeBoeing 737-8AS
OperatorEthiopian Airlines
IATA flight No.ET409
ICAO flight No.ETH409
Call signETHIOPIAN 409
RegistrationET-ANB
Flight originBeirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport, Lebanon
DestinationBole International Airport, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Occupants90
Passengers82
Crew8
Fatalities90
Survivors0

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 was an international commercial flight scheduled from Beirut to Addis Ababa that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after takeoff from Rafic Hariri International Airport on 25 January 2010, killing all 90 people on board. This was the first fatal crash for Ethiopian Airlines since the hijack of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 in 1996.

Aircraft and crew

The aircraft involved was a Boeing 737-8AS, registration ET-ANB, s/n 29935. It had its maiden flight on 18 January 2002, and was delivered new to Ryanair on 4 February 2002 as EI-CSW. Stored in April 2009 (2009-04), Ethiopian Airlines took delivery of the aircraft on 12 September 2009, leased from CIT Aerospace. Provided with twin CFM56-7B26 powerplants, the airframe last underwent maintenance checks on 25 December 2009 without any technical problems found. It was 8 years and 7 days old at the time the accident took place.

The captain was 44-year-old Habtamu Benti Negasa, who had been with Ethiopian Airlines since 1989. He was one of the airline's most experienced pilots having logged 10,233 flight hours, including 2,488 hours on the Boeing 737. The first officer was 23-year-old Aluna Tamerat Beyene. He was far less experienced than the captain, having worked for Ethiopian Airlines for only a year and having 673 flight hours, 350 of them on the Boeing 737.: 28–29 

Accident

The Boeing 737 took off from runway 21 at Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport in stormy weather, with 82 passengers and eight crew members on board. The METAR data indicated wind speeds of 8 knots (15 km/h; 9 mph) from varying directions, with thunderstorms in the vicinity of the airport. The aircraft climbed erratically to 9,000 feet (2,700 m), stalled and entered a spiral dive to the left. Radar contact was lost a few seconds before it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea at 02:41 local time (UTC +2/EET),: 15  four or five minutes after take off. Witnesses near the coast reported seeing the aircraft on fire as it crashed into the sea.

Search and recovery

On the morning following the crash, Lebanese authorities reported locating the crash site 3.5 kilometres (1.9 nmi) off the coast from the village of Na'ameh, in 45 metres (148 ft) of water. The search for survivors was carried out by the Lebanese Army, using Sikorsky S-61 helicopters, the Lebanese Navy and UNIFIL troops. The U.S. military, in response to a request from the Lebanese government, sent the guided missile destroyer USS Ramage, a Navy Lockheed P-3 Orion aircraft, and the salvage ship USNS Grapple. The French Navy sent a Breguet Atlantic reconnaissance aircraft. UNIFIL sent three ships (among them the German minesweeper tender Mosel and the Turkish corvette Bozcaada) and two helicopters to the scene. Further helicopters were sent by the Royal Air Force, and the Cyprus Police aviation unit.

On 7 February, Lebanese Army divers recovered the plane's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder (CVR). The CVR was missing a memory storage unit when found. This was reported on 16 February as having been recovered. All were sent to the French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (BEA) for analysis.

All the deceased were recovered from the sea by 23 February. The recovered bodies were sent to the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut for DNA testing and identification. They were all identified by the end of February.

Investigation

The Lebanese Civil Aviation Authority investigated the accident, with the assistance of the BEA, Boeing, and the National Transportation Safety Board of the United States.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman stated before the flight data recorders were found that the crash was not due to terrorism. Lebanese Information Minister Tarek Mitri rejected the notion that the aircraft should not have been allowed to take off under the current weather conditions, stating that "many" other aircraft had taken off during the time period.

The final investigation report released by the Lebanese Ministry of Public Works and Transport, presented on 17 January 2012, stated that "the probable causes of the accident were the flight crew's mismanagement of the aircraft's speed, altitude, headings and attitude through inconsistent flight control inputs resulting in a loss of control and their failure to abide by CRM [Crew Resource Management] principles of mutual support and calling deviations".

Ethiopian Airlines stated the airline "strongly refutes" the report, and that it "was biased, lacking evidence, incomplete and did not present the full account of the accident". The airline wrote in a press release issued the same day as the investigation report that the halting of flight data and cockpit voice recording at 1,300 feet, the disappearance of the aircraft from radar at that time, and the eyewitness reports of a fireball "clearly indicate that the aircraft disintegrated in the air due to explosion, which could have been caused by a shoot-down, sabotage, or lightning strike." The Lebanese CAA report had noted that eyewitnesses, including an air traffic controller and a crew flying in the vicinity of Flight 409, had reported seeing an "orange light", "an orange explosion", or "a ball of fire" at the time and toward the location the aircraft crashed into the sea; but concluded "No sign of any explosion or fire were detected on the wreckage" or "during the autopsies carried on some of the bodies". It speculated that the impression of an explosion may have been caused by the aircraft lights during the aircraft's last steep dive; or by the "thunderstorm activities in the area".

Passengers and crew

Ethiopian Airlines issued the following list of the nationalities of the victims:

Country Passengers Crew Total
Lebanon 51 0 51
Ethiopia 23 8 31
United Kingdom 2 0 2
Canada 1 0 1
France 1 0 1
Iraq 1 0 1
Russia 1 0 1
Syria 1 0 1
Turkey 1 0 1
Total 82 8 90

A memorial ceremony was held at the Ethiopian Airlines premises in Addis Ababa on 14 February 2010.

In the media

The crash was dramatized in the twelfth series of the Canadian documentary Mayday (also known as Air Emergency or Air Crash Investigation). It is titled "Heading to Disaster". The episode re-creates the crash based on the Lebanese investigators' final report.

See also

This page was last updated at 2023-01-07 08:48 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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