More information is emerging about the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 409 accident. Air traffic controllers (ATC) lost contact with the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 (registration ET-ANB), minutes after it took off from Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, en route to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Flight ET 409 departed Beirut's runway 21 at approximately 02:30 AM local time on January 25, 2010.
A debris field was located off the coast of Lebanon, indicating that the aircraft had crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. An "aggressive" search and rescue operation was initiated by the Lebanese government and military, assisted by United Nations security forces in Beirut.
The airline has confirmed that eight crew members and 82 passengers were on board Flight ET 409. No survivors have been found, however dozens of bodies have been recovered and have been taken to Rafic Hariri University Hospital, according to Lebanon's National News Agency. Ethiopian Airlines said in a press release that 14 of the deceased have been identified so far, including six Ethiopians and eight Lebanese nationals.
The Ethiopian Airlines press release also stated:
The pilot of flight ET409 was a career flight professional with over 20 years of experience flying various aircraft over the expanded network of the airline.FlightGlobal.com reported earlier today that the aircraft had climbed to an altitude of about 9,000 ft before ATC lost contact with it. Weather data showed the presence of cumulonimbus clouds and thunderstorm activity in the area at the time of the accident.
The aircraft B737-800 with registration number ET-ANB involved in the accident has had its regular maintenance service as recently as December 25, 2009 at the maintenance facilities of the National carrier and was declared safe and fit to fly.
A short time ago, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that a team was being dispatched to Lebanon to assist that country's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC) with its investigation of the accident. The team will include technical advisors from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing, the manufacturer of the aircraft.
Condolences to the families and friends of those who perished in this accident, and to Ethiopian Airlines.
UPDATE Jan 27, 2010: Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 409 flight recorders located - AircrewBuzz.com, Jan. 27, 2010
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