Media Relations

Media Watch: The Ethiopian Airline crash and Boeing troubles put into perspective

An Ethiopian Airliner

On Saturday 9th of March at around midday news of a plane crash emanated from the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed who tweeted first about the matter. Soon the rest of the world including the media confirmed the Prime Minister’s  tweet and started giving the updates of the news.

What really happened?

So as explained by this article by Vox’s Emily Stewart an Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 went down.  The plane which disappeared 6 minutes after takeoff crashed. The plane had 157 people on board and none of whom survived.  The majority of the people on board were Kenyans (32 in number) and the nationalities on the plane were 35. This to me made the story a little bigger than we thought because all the nationals from the crush would be demanding answers from Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines.

Though investigations are still being done and the black box has been recovered it is revealed and safe to report the plane’s pilot had “flight control problems” with the plane. This begs the question how did the plane develop this problem and how did Boeing get into this mess?

So how did Boeing involved and why did it get into hot soup?

Boeing made a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane. The plane is praised for its more leg room and comfortability which was a major selling point. The model is so popular that 4000 planes were sold immediately after it was made.

 However things have not been quite comfortable when it comes to this make of the plane. In October a Lions Airline Flight went down in Jakarta, Indonesia. This put Boeing in a very awkward position as it has now led to banning of the use of its famous plane with CNBC making a few contrasts between how the two crashes are almost similar. To me this was an early call as investigations are being done. However the domino effect when it came to banning has already started being felt.  On the same Sunday of the crush  CNN broke the news that China (one of Boeing’s biggest customer)was going to be banning the use of Boeing 737 Max 8 from the air Indonesia followed suit then UK and finally Canada and USA which took a little longer to ban the use of the plane.

What has Boeing had to say for itself?

Simple we are making a software update to the plane.

Boeing has released a number of statements regarding the crash that happened. However the one that has caught the attention of many is the software update press release. The release was done on March 11th 2019. The release intimated an update to the systems Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). In addition it would also be upgrading to note some flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training. The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.”

According to Wikipedia the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System is important because it is able to prevent stalls in flaps-retracted, low-speed, nose-up flight. The MCAS uses airspeed and other sensor data to compute when a dangerous condition has developed and then trims the aircraft nose down.

How long will the grounding take?

Regulators can take a while before they have decided to “unground” a plane. In some cases the grounding may stay until the case is resolved.  It is going to be a while until Boeing resolves its issues with regulators. So will it be a day will it be a month? We probably do not know until the investigation is done then we will be able to know.

Our rating of the coverage

The coverage has been good. Every report has put everything into perspective. There was a lot of respect accorded to the victims of the crash by the press; however it did not stop the scrutiny into the planes. I believe the entire media did its best when it came to covering this crash. It made us question whether it is okay to fly with Boeing one of the biggest 4 flight and defense contractors in the world.

The story also sort of validated the importance of Mainstream media as it was largely needed on social media to validate the news of the crush. This makes it important for media to improve its news relaying tactics on social media as they are still needed.  

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