Black soot identified on APU of crashed Ethiopian plane

EthiopianReporter : Kaleyesus Bekele

-Fuselage of the aircraft still in the Mediterranean Sea

– Lebanese authorities reaffirm refusal to disclose required
Information

The aircraft accident investigation team of Ethiopian Airlines that is conducting a probe into the crashing of a Boeing 737-800 plane of the airline which went down off the coast of Beirut in January 2010 has identified a black soot on the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU).

APU is an auxiliary engine found at the tale of the aircraft that provides electric power and air to the aircraft until the main engines start to run. Reliable sources close to the investigation told The Reporter that the fact that the investigation team has recently found a black soot on the APU shows that there was some kind of fire or explosion on the aircraft. They added that even though this would be properly determined after the technical analysis is conducted, the discovery of the black soot is a significant development in the investigation process. The progress report released on Saturday said some black soot traces were found around the APU adding that it will be addressed and analyzed during the technical review.

Ethiopian airlines crash
Ethiopian airlines crash Beirut January 2010

Sources said the investigation team has recently agreed to include essential data in relation to the recently identified black soot on the APU, laboratory trim tab mechanism and recovery attempt of the damaged cockpit voice recorder (CVR) chips. It is to be recalled that some segments of the CVR had been damaged. “Surprisingly, the memory chip of the CVR was found detached from the black box. This has never happed before. Second, parts of the recorded material are damaged. The black box is airtight and cannot be damaged by fire or water. It is probably the first time that a recorded material in a black box has been damaged,” the sources surmised.

A year ago, The Reporter had reported that parts of the recorded material in the memory chip of the CVR were damaged. The Lebanese Minister of Transport and Public Works, Ghazi Aridi, this week confirmed this report. Briefing journalists about the progress report on the investigation process last Saturday, Aridi said that that one of the five cockpit voice recorders which contains a damaged segment would be sent from France’s Bureau d’Enquetes et d’ Analyses (BEA), a member of the investigation team, to the manufacturer of the CVR, Honywell, a Seattle-based company, to recover the lost segment.

Though the International Civil Aviation Organization (CAO) convention stipulates that the interim report on any aircraft accident report should be released within 30 days of the accident by the country of occurrence, Lebanonese authorities were only able to release the progress report last Saturday, a year after the accident. “Since they are unable to produce the interim report they just came up with the progress report,” sources said.

The factual data collection work will continue until March 15 and in April the data will be verified and validated by Ethiopian and Lebanese authorities, officials of Boeing and the US National Transport Safety Board (NTSB). After that the analysis will be conducted and its results are expected to be announced in July this year.

The Investigation Committee is planning a Technical Review meeting before 15 April 2011 in order to evaluate and validate all factual information found necessary for the analysis phase. The Committee is planning to conclude the analytical part by 15 May and to produce a final draft report ready for review by all participating States by May 30. “So the data collection is still ongoing and no one can tell the cause of the crash at this moment,” sources said. “In addittion to that the fuselage of the aircraft is still in the Mediterranean Sea. The Lebanese government was reluctant to recover the fuselage from the Sea. How can you tell the cause of the crash while 92 percent of the wreckage is lying under the sea?” sources ask.

The progress report indicated that the aircraft was mechanically sound and that it landed and took off from the Rafik Hariri Airport without any incident. What happened after that is still a mystery. The report shows that the plane lost its balance and the pilots received three cockpit warnings. “The pilots struggled to restore the balance but it was beyond their capability. What made the aircraft misbehave? Was it hit by an external matter? Or was there a structural problem with the aircraft? It is yet to be seen. How can a senior pilot who flew for over 20 years, accumulating 8000 flight hours, ignore warnings? The captain tried hard to return the plane to its normal course but he could not do succeed. Why? There are many an answered questions.

READ MORE ON: Ethiopian Reporter

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