Deadly plane crash puts dent in Ethiopia’s grand designs

Mar 12, 2019, 6:47 AM
Rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, sout...
Rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday, March 11, 2019. A spokesman says Ethiopian Airlines has grounded all its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft as a safety precaution, following the crash of one of its planes in which 157 people were killed. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)
(AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The crown jewel in Ethiopia’s transformation to continental power in recent years is Ethiopian Airlines, the state-owned company that calls itself “the new spirit of Africa.”
Sunday’s crash that killed 157 people also puts a dent in Ethiopia’s grand designs, spurred on by a dazzlingly reformist new leader. He vows to turn a state controlled-system into free and fair elections next year.

Even as the crash crater smoked, Africa mourned not only the dead but a symbol of the continent’s rise.

“This couldn’t have come at a worse time for Ethiopian Airlines,” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement, mindful that his own country, Africa’s largest economy, has no national carrier. “Like every other African leader, I am proud of the fact that Ethiopian Airlines represents one of Africa’s success stories.”

The airline, Africa’s only profitable carrier, is the high-flying symbol of a country shaking off its decades-old image of devastating poverty and famine.

Thanks in part to financing from China, Ethiopia has ambitious undertakings in infrastructure and industry that have facilitated some of Africa’s fastest rapid economic growth.

Bold projects include one of Africa’s few metro rail services, a massive hydropower dam on the Nile and numerous projects linking the landlocked nation with the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

“Many Ethiopians see yesterday. I see tomorrow,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Africa’s youngest head of government, told The Financial Times last month in his first major interview.

Abiy, who took power nearly a year ago, left the country of some 110 million people breathless with reforms. His government freed jailed opposition figures, welcomed home exiles and made peace with neighboring Eritrea — startling changes that he hopes to continue in business, opening the airline and other state-owned sectors to the world.

As more countries and investors reach out to Africa, they increasingly land in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Sunday’s crash occurred shortly after takeoff there. The dead came from 35 countries.

“Ethiopian Airways is a key player in linking Africa to Gulf relations and a signature project of Ethiopia’s internal capacity,” said Angelo Izama, a regional analyst based in the United Arab Emirates. “So the wider community basically took the crash as a shock to Ethiopia and its status as a potential hegemon in the Horn (of Africa) and in East Africa.”

In January, Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport inaugurated a new passenger terminal equipped to handle 22 million visitors a year, tripling its capacity in a city that is a diplomatic hub with the headquarters of the African Union continental body.

The opening was a dramatic pushback against the long-held image of African air travel as chaotic and dangerous on a bustling continent of more than 1 billion people. Before Sunday, no major deadly air accident had occurred in more than two years.

Ethiopian Airlines appears determined to spread the success, reaching out to other African airlines for partnerships and investment. Many African carriers have collapsed in the last few decades, often because of mismanagement.

In its push for dominance, Ethiopian Airlines continues to open new international routes, flying to nearly 120 destinations. In January it opened a route to Moscow and announced plans to fly nonstop to Houston.

The company has been among the first buyers of commercial jets hitting the market. In 2012 it became the first in Africa, and one of the first around the globe, to take delivery of Boeing’s flagship Dreamliner jet.

The purchase was celebrated with fanfare at home as a source of immense pride.

Ethiopian Airlines’ latest headline purchase was the Boeing 737 Max 8, the newest version of the best-selling airliner in history.

Heady with optimism, the airline ordered 30 of them last year.

One of the planes was delivered in mid-November.

On Sunday, six minutes after takeoff, it crashed. No one yet knows why.

Ethiopian Airlines within hours tweeted a photo of its CEO standing in the wreckage, an image shared around the world.

The prime minister went to the site as well. But he mourned in private.
Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa

Today’s Top Stories


FILE - A Montana man was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot. (AP P...
The Associated Press

Montana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

A Montana man will spend three years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol.
1 day ago
Debbie, left, and Chet Barnett place flowers at a memorial outside of the Chesapeake, Va., Walmart ...
The Associated Press

Walmart shooter left ‘death note,’ bought gun day of killing

According to authorities in Virginia, the Walmart shooter bought his gun just hours prior to killing six employees.
1 day ago
Dry lakebed...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

Lawsuit looms over tiny fish in drought-stricken West

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delayed decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week […]
3 days ago
Hand-written messages cover the heart attached to the cross to honor a victim of the mass shooting ...

Colorado gay club shooting suspect held without bail

The alleged shooter facing possible hate crime charges in the fatal shooting of five people at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub was ordered held without bail in an initial court appearance Wednesday.
3 days ago
Four Dead University of Idaho...

Coroner: Idaho students were stabbed to death in their beds

Four University of Idaho students who were found dead in a rental house Sunday were stabbed to death in their beds and likely were asleep.
8 days ago
FILE - In this photo provided by the National Park Service is the Abyss Pool hot spring in the sout...
The Associated Press

Foot found in Yellowstone hot pool ID’d as that of LA man

Yellowstone National Park officials say a foot found in July belongs to a 70-year-old man from California.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Deadly plane crash puts dent in Ethiopia’s grand designs