ADDIS ABABA - Relatives of victims in last year’s Ethiopian Airlines crash have arrived in Addis Ababa to commemorate the anniversary of the tragedy and to get answers. An airline industry final report on what caused the Boeing 737 MAX to crash is expected this week.
Families of the 157 victims on board Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 are holding memorials in Addis Ababa Monday before traveling Tuesday to the crash site, about 45 kilometers outside the capital, for a private ceremony.
At a small gathering at the French Embassy Monday, relatives of the 10 French citizens killed in the March 10 crash commemorated their lost loved ones.
There were no survivors when the nearly new Boeing 737 MAX crashed, just minutes after takeoff.
Virginie Fricaudet is president of the victim’s association ET302 Solidarity Justice. She lost her 38-year-old brother Xavier, a teacher at the French School in Nairobi.
“I would say that we have created a community between all families — the French families on one side and the other global families on the other side. It’s a big and huge moment of being all together because we are linked by the same tragedy and destiny. It’s a moment that we should live like a big family," she said.
Surviving relatives have asked for Boeing not to be involved in the anniversary memorials and have filed lawsuits against the company to seek compensation.
Their visit to Ethiopia comes as air safety investigators are expected to release an interim report on the roles played by Boeing, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and Ethiopian Airlines.
The report found that pilots on the 737 MAX were not provided with adequate training by the aircraft’s manufacturer. It also determined that Boeing’s MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which aggressively pushed down the nose of the plane, was “vulnerable to undesired activation.”
Relatives and friends of victims are still waiting for answers and remain critical of how the aftermath of the crash was handled.
Yeshiwas Zeggeye was president of Arline Pilot’s Association of Ethiopia at the time of the crash.
“What’s quite interesting up to this point is that the company did not have a consultation with pilots and cabin crews at all after the crash. That is not something that I would have expected. I would expect the company would engage more with its pilots, especially those who flew on the Boeing 737 MAX at the time,” he said.
Zeggeye also criticized Ethiopian Airlines for not acting after the Lion Air crash in Indonesia, also a 737 MAX, that took place months earlier.
Relatives of the Ethiopian Airlines crash victims agree the 737 Max should have been grounded soon after the Lion Air crash.
Aviation engineer and vice president of ET302 Solidarity Justice Matthieu Willm says Boeing needs to explain why the 737 MAX aircraft were allowed to continue flying.
A U.S. congressional report last week into the crash accused Boeing of concealing crucial information from the FAA, making faulty assumptions about critical technologies, and production pressures that jeopardized aviation safety.
Boeing did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
But in public statements, the company has said it will review the report, continue to cooperate with investigators, and that its thoughts and prayers are with the relatives who lost loved ones.
Boeing last year set aside $100 million to assist the families of victims and communities impacted by the crashes, which killed 346 people in total.
The funds are not part of any compensation the aircraft maker might have to pay to those who are suing the company for damages.
Boeing has said it is strengthening safety measures and estimates it will be able to re-certify the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for use around the middle of this year.