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Why the MAX’s Black Box Is Going to Europe Instead of the US

The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorded from the wreckage of Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302, arrived in Paris on Wednesday after Ethiopian officials denied a request to send the so-called black boxes to the U.S. for analysis. German investigators say they declined to accept the devices because they lacked the resources to properly evaluate the data recovered from the next generation aircraft.

France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) has announced it would perform the analysis of the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder recovered from the wreck of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 at the request of Ethiopian officials. On Wednesday, Germany’s Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU) confirmed it had declined a request to analyze the recorder because it lacked the resources to assess the data from the relatively new Boeing 737 MAX 8.

Because the aircraft was designed and built in the U.S, authorities there had reportedly requested that the black boxes be returned for analysis. A team from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was also dispatched to assist the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) in their investigation.

According to The Globe and Mail, the black boxes have already arrived in Paris. Ethiopian officials announced on Wednesday they would not be returning the black boxes to Boeing or U.S investigators, but it was not clear which agency would take possession of the accident data recorders until French investigators confirmed they had taken possession of the devices on Thursday.

The decision to send the black boxes to a third party country, not involved in operating or manufacturing the crashed aircraft, is extraordinarily unusual. The move is widely viewed as something of a rebuke to both Boeing and U.S. officials.

While the vast majority of aviation authorities and commercial airlines around the globe were quick to ground 737 MAX aircraft in the wake of back-to-back tragedies, including Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing, along with U.S airlines and regulators, remained steadfast in insisting there was no evidence of safety issues with the next generation aircraft. This increasingly isolating position led to lingering questions about the objectivity of U.S. investigators.

According to Reuters, the condition of the black boxes and the ability to retrieve the data they contain is still unclear. The BEA reports evaluating the information could take between several hours and several days. “First we will try to read the data,” a BEA spokesperson told reporters.

[Image Source: Wikimedia]

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10 Comments
F
flyerCO March 18, 2019

@thierryd92 he had 200 hours in type, not 200 hours total flying experience.

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Dublin_rfk March 17, 2019

The view from 22B. I have more butt in seat time in more aircraft than both the Capt and FO combined. I will wait for black box report before making a decision on the 737M. The flight crew is a different matter. Lion air, Ethiopian, and let’s add Malaysian to this. I have flown two of them and do so no longer. Foreign airlines have substantially different and lower standards for their flight crews and maintenance.

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leonidas March 17, 2019

if FAA and Boeing, especially, Boeing had reacted promptly and ethically (i.e, not worrying about Boeing shares and the US market/prestige), things might have been different. But when US/ home of Boeing was the last country on the planet to ground the 737M, are you really surprised?

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CEB March 16, 2019

Ignoring the absurd political rants above, I will only point out that in general a co-pilot with so few hours would be on a regional jet, not a mainline 737. Further, even the more experienced pilot was a mere 29 years old, certainly plenty of 'hours' but on what types/size of aircraft? It was already pointed out that his experience on larger planes was with 'more automated Airbus' equipment. So let us acknowledge that opinions without data are both speculative and inflammatory. The French have a strong record in safety investigation, though the FAA has the greatest depth and breadth of experience in these matters. Who reads and transcripts the data is truly irrelevant, in the end they will all cooperate in the review and come to a consensus before publishing a conclusion. I suggest everyone cool their 'jets' and wait for the results rather than spouting off with unsubstantiated and worthless opinion that does nothing but incite fear.

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BigFlyer March 16, 2019

Given that the US is now led by a serial liar - why would any foreign company or government trust an investigation done by a US governmental agency?