Lebanese blame pilot error for 2010 crash

2012-01-17 21:25

Beirut - Lebanese authorities blame pilot error for the 2010 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet that went down minutes after takeoff from Beirut in a thunderstorm, killing all 90 people on board, a report released on Tuesday said.

Ethiopian Airlines immediately rejected the report, saying it was incomplete and biased.

The Boeing 737 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea on January 25 2010, during a fierce storm.

"The truth lies in the Lebanese report, which reveals that the pilot holds full responsibility for the plane crash," Lebanese Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi said on Tuesday.

According to the report by Lebanese authorities, the probable cause of the crash was "the flight crew's mismanagement" and "a failure in basic piloting skills". The investigation analysed black box data recordings and other evidence.

"The aircraft did fly in heavy rain and icing conditions, but it did not encounter any severe turbulence or lightning strike," the report said.

The investigation also found the captain flew 188 hours in 51 days "with the absolute minimum rest", which "could have likely resulted in chronic fatigue affecting the captain's performance".

The report suggested the crew could have been affected by a meal they ate during their stop in Beirut, noting they were heard discussing how they had trouble sleeping afterward.

"That comment could have been a banal one if the accident didn't occur," the report said.

The managing director of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, dismissed the report's conclusions, and said he believes Lebanese authorities withheld information.

Captain Desta Zeru, a vice president of flight operations, said the airline believes a mid-air explosion caused the crash.

According to the Lebanese report, however, "no signs of fire or explosion was detected in the aircraft wreckage".

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