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Ministry of Transport dispatches accident investigation team to China

Ministry of Transport dispatches accident investigation team to China

The Ministry of Transport has dispatched an aircraft accident investigation team to China to assist the investigation on the Ethiopian Airlines B777-200 freighter aircraft that sustained a fire accident at Shanghai Pundong Airport on Wednesday.

Dagmawit Moges, Minister of Transport, has notified the Civil Aviation Administration of China that the ministry has delegated a team of aviation experts comprising Amdye Ayalew Fanta (Col.), head of the Ethiopian Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, Captain Gedlu Melese (adviser), Ephrem Lake (adviser) and Ephrem Araya (adviser) to assist the accident investigation. Accordingly, the team led by Amdye Ayalew (Col.) has left to China on the night of July 22.  

As per the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 13, aircraft accident investigation is led by country of occurrence. Country of registration and operation, and country of design and manufacture will also partake in the accident investigation process. Consequently, Ethiopia as a country of registration and operation has dispatched its team of accident investigation experts to China. Civil Aviation Administration of China, Office of Aviation safety is the lead investigator. The country of manufacture, the US National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) and Boeing, will participate in the investigation.

The Ethiopian Airlines B777 freighter aircraft fuselage partially damaged when it caught fire at Pudong Shanghai International Airport on Wednesday July 22, 2020. Fire fighters have contained the fire but the aircraft fuselage has sustained a significant damage. In a statement, Ethiopian said all flight crew and ground staff were safe.

The B777F jetliner with registration number ET-ARH was on a regular scheduled cargo flight service from Shanghai to Sao Polo-Santiago via Addis Ababa, the airlines’ main hub. Ethiopian said it has collaborated with all concerned authorities to contain the fire. “The cause of the fire incident is under investigation by the appropriate authorities,” it added.

Ethiopian said it is proud of its flight crew for correctly following the relevant procedures in handling the incident. “Although proper investigation has started by the country of occurrence and the country of registration and operation, preliminary information revealed that in the final preparation for taxi out, fire was detected in the main deck. The crew reported to ATC and the handling company and asked for help as per the procedure. Meanwhile, the fire spread in the cabin until the handling company and the airport emergency unit arrived at the scene of the incident. The fire damaged the upper structure of the aircraft before it was brought under control by the airport emergency services,” the airline said.          

A senior official of Ethiopian told The Reporter that the aircraft was carrying Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and merchandise. “The cause of the incident is yet to be established. We will cooperate with the Chinese civil aviation accident investigation authorities,” the official said. Ethiopian Airlines has been transporting PPEs and ventilators from China to Europe, the US and South America since the COVID-19 pandemic spread to all over the world. 

According to Ethiopian, the aircraft, B777-200F, was original dedicated cargo aircraft acquired by the airline brand new from Boeing factory in October 2014. “The aircraft had clean maintenance log book since previous flights,” the airline said.       

Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services operates a cargo fleet of ten B777F and two B737F. The B777 is the most modern and largest commercial freighter aircraft with the capacity to lift 105 tons of cargo at a time. The B737 can transport 22 tons of cargo.

Ethiopian Airlines is set to grow its cargo fleet with six more freighters. The airline has converted 25 passenger aircraft including B787 and A350 jetliners into cargo aircraft to meet the massive freight transport demand created abruptly in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.  

In addition the airline will be adding one new 777F directly from Boeing, three freighter-converted 767Fs, and two freighter-converted 737Fs.  With the addition of six freighter aircraft, Ethiopian hopes to meet the growing demand for air cargo services. 

Ethiopian has a state-of-the-art cargo terminal at its main hub Addis Ababa Bole International Airport which can handle one million tons of cargo per annum.

Ethiopian Cargo daily transports 1.6 million kg of cargo to fro its main hub in Addis Ababa of which 70 percent goes to other countries. Currently, Ethiopian Cargo handles 450,000 tons of cargo annually generating more than USD 800 million. The company targets to boost its revenue to USD two billion by 2025.

While most airlines survival is at stake the management of Ethiopian is keeping the airline afloat by boosting cargo operations. Cargo accounts to 15 percent of the airlines total revenue.