Pilot in Beirut crash made ‘fast and strange turn’ after takeoff
Ignored advice of tower, went opposite way
BEIRUT - The pilot of a doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight made a “fast and strange turn’’ minutes after takeoff from Beirut in a thunderstorm, Lebanon’s transportation minister said yesterday, disclosing new clues about the plane’s few minutes in flight.
Ghazi Aridi cautioned, however, against reaching any conclusions about the cause of the crash, saying it was far too early and investigators still need to find the black boxes.
All 90 people on board the plane bound for Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, were feared dead from the crash, which happened about 2:30 a.m. Monday.
A second day of rescue operations using sonar-equipped boats and divers turned up only a few body parts, extinguishing hope of finding any survivors.
Search teams scoured the sea floor trying to find the bulk of the wreckage as well as the black box and flight data recorder, which are critical to determining the cause of the crash.
Aridi disclosed that the plane flew in the opposite direction from the path the control tower recommended after taking off in stormy weather.
He said the pilot initially followed the tower’s guidance, but then abruptly changed course.
“They asked him to correct his path, but he did a very fast and strange turn before disappearing completely from the radar,’’ Aridi said.
“Nobody is saying the pilot is to blame for not heeding orders,’’ Aridi said, adding: “There could have been many reasons for what happened. . . . Only the black box can tell.’’
It was not clear why the pilot veered off the recommended path. Like most other airliners, the
Ethiopian Airlines said late Monday that the pilot had more than 20 years of experience.
Rescue teams and equipment sent from the UN and countries including the United States and Cyprus were searching an area up to 6 miles out to sea. Conditions were chilly but relatively clear yesterday.