The president of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, said in a recent letter to the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) that the loss of his airline’s Flight 409 on January 25, 2010, shortly after takeoff from Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport (OLBA), was not due to pilot error, but to a surface-to-air missile, a lightning strike or some form of sabotage.
Gebremariam took the foundation to task in a letter over an FSF story (“Spiral Dive,” AeroSafety World, March 2012) highlighting the Lebanese Ministry of Public Works and Transportation’s accident report about Ethiopian 409, which he claimed was riddled with “numerous factual inaccuracies, internal contradictions and hypothetical statements that are not supported by relevant evidence.”
The Lebanese accident report and the FSF story, both following 409’s cockpit voice and fight data recorder information, said the two Ethiopian pilots lost control of the Boeing 737-8 after a series of inconsistent flight control inputs while the captain attempted to hand fly the aircraft around a series of scattered thunderstorms over the Mediterranean Sea.
After listening to the same CVR, the airline president interpreted the story much differently, claiming the Lebanese authorities did not conduct a thorough investigation and made their decision to blame the pilots before all the evidence had been collected. Gebremariam said his explanation for the crash is born out by, “The significant eyewitness accounts, including the ATC controllers and pilots from other flights in the area, that contained statements regarding a ‘fire ball’ at altitude in the sky.”