Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told reporters at a press conference that the pilot of flight ET 302 that crashed Sunday morning had reported technical difficulties and asked for clearance to return to Addis Ababa.
He was given clearance to turn back, according to Mr. GebreMariam, citing the Air Traffic Controllers record.
The senior Ethiopian Airlines pilot had flown more than 8,000 hours. He had an “excellent flying record,” according to the CEO.
A routine maintenance check didn’t reveal any problems, he said. GebreMariam said they have not yet determined the cause of the crash.
GebreMariam also confirmed the company owns 6 other 737 Max 8 aircraft which are in service. Asked about whether the company would be grounding them he explained they wouldn’t as “we don’t know the cause of the accident.”
The Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane had flown into Addis Ababa Sunday morning from Johannesburg on Flight ET858.
The CEO has visited the crash site today. He said the plane “is now right inside the ground” and it was not possible to identify whether it was an emergency landing or a crash. He said there was still smoke at the site when he visited.
A general view shows the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on March 10, 2019.