Crashed plane ET-409 final report will be released in July: Ghazi al-Aridi

Ghazi Aridi

Dailystar BEIRUT: The investigation into Ethiopian Airlines flight ET409 crash, minutes after taking off from Beirut’s Rafik Hariri airport a year ago, has made significant progress and the final report will be released in July, caretaker Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi al-Aridi said Monday.

“Today we can declare that we have recovered many important facts which explain the causes behind flight ET409’s crash,” Aridi told reporters.

Ghazi Aridi
Transport Minister Ghazi al-Aridi

Minutes after takeoff, the plane, bound for Addis Ababa, plunged into the eastern coast of the Mediterranean off the coast of Beirut on Jan. 25, 2010.

“Based on the agreement between Lebanon and Ethiopia, and to remain transparent, we will keep the facts of the ongoing investigation away from the public until the release of the final report in July,” Aridi told a news conference at the Civil Aviation Department at the Rafik Hariri International Airport.

Just days after the crash Aridi had suggested that the disaster took place as a result of pilot error, and said that the pilot had made a fast and strange turn shortly after takeoff. Other authorities in Lebanon quickly ruled out security scenarios as a possible cause for the incident.

Aridi said Monday that disputes between Ethiopian and Lebanese authorities over allegations of responsibility delayed the final report of the Civil Aviation Authority’s investigation.

American experts from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, together with France’s Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation Civile, were authorized by Lebanon’s CAA to provide technical support in decoding the Boeing 737-800’s black box and cockpit voice recorder found in the debris of ET409.

“One of the five cockpit voice recorders which contains a damaged segment would be sent from France’s BEA to a Seattle-based company [Honeywell] to recover that lost segment,” Aridi said.

In the meantime, Aridi said that the trim tab part of the plane’s rear would be delivered to NTSB for mechanical analysis with the help of engineers dispatched by Ethiopian Airlines. “The results of these procedures should be ready before mid-March,” Aridi added.

Lebanon’s investigation team, headed by pilot Mohammad Aziz, flew to Addis Ababa last month on a four-day visit to brief their Ethiopian counterparts on the investigation. During the visit Aziz, who was joined with NTSB and representatives of the Boeing Company, met with several agents of Ethiopia’s Civil Aviation Authority in a bid to gather in-depth analysis of the flight ET409 crash.

“After Lebanon receives the results of the analysis, the investigative committee will evaluate the reports in several meetings before sending a draft report to its international counterparts,” said Aridi, who vowed to provide victims’ families with the results.

While allegations have been exchanged by the two sides about whether the crash was due to human error or bad weather conditions, the families of the victims have waited patiently for the truth to be revealed.

“All families will be compensated without any exceptions,” Aridi said.

Recent media reports have revealed the furious arguments between Lebanon and Ethiopia with different sources publicizing conflicting allegations on the causes of the tragedy.

Aridi urged the media to avoid conjecture and wait for the final report. “I am sure everyone in the media is interested in investigative journalism to know truths which are not known to everyone, but I plead with you to stay away from speculation,” he added.

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