Ethiopian jet crash deaths rise as 34 bodies found (2)

08:37, January 26, 2010      

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A relative of passengers who were aboard an Ethiopian Airlines plane, which crashed into the Mediterranean sea on Monday morning, is comforted at Beirut international airport January 25, 2010.(Photo:chinadaily.com.cn/Agencies)

The plane was carrying 90 people, including 83 passengers and 7 crew, Lebanese officials said. Aridi, the transportation minister, identified the passengers as 54 Lebanese, 22 Ethiopians, one Iraqi, one Syrian, one Canadian of Lebanese origin, one Russian of Lebanese origin, a French woman and two Britons of Lebanese origin.

Ethiopian Airlines reported that there were 82 passengers and eight crew; the discrepancy could not immediately be explained.

The Boeing 737 is considered one of the safest planes in airline service. The jet was first introduced in the 1960s, and today is the workhorse on many short- and medium-range routes.

Still, over the past 15 years it was involved in a series of incidents and crashes linked to a valve in the rudder assembly. This reportedly would malfunction and cause the rudder to turn independently of the pilot's commands.

The problem was considered resolved after operators of older Boeing 737s were ordered to carry out inspections and upgrades of the critical rudder control systems.

In February 2009, a Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane crashed short of the runway at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, killing nine passengers and crew. Dutch investigators say the plane crashed because a false reading from a faulty altimeter.

The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines announced last week that it signed an agreement with Boeing to buy 10 more of the 737-800s at an estimated $767 million. The order will expland the airline's fleet from the 36 aircraft it has now — not including the 737-800 that crashed Monday.

Aviation safety analyst Chris Yates said it was far too early to say what caused the crash, but he noted that modern aircraft are built to withstand all but the foulest weather conditions.

"One wouldn't have thought that a nasty squall in and of itself would be the prime cause of an accident like this," said Yates, an analyst based in Manchester, England. He note that reports of fire could suggest "some cataclysmic failure of one of the engines" or that something had been sucked into the engine, such as a bird or debris.

Ethiopian Airlines has long had a reputation for high-quality service compared to other African airlines, with two notable crashes in more than 20 years.

A hijacked Ethiopian Airlines jet crash-landed off the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean when it ran out of fuel in November 1996, killing 126 of the 175 people aboard. In September 1988, an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed shortly after taking off when it ran into a flock of birds, killing 31 of the 104 people on board.

Boeing said it is coordinating with the US National Transportation Safety Board to assist Lebanese authorities in the investigation.
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http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90777/90855/6878459.pdf