Asrat also said the pilot had reported flight control problems and had requested to return to Addis Ababa, from where the plane took off en route to Nairobi. Sunday's crash has triggered a global backlash against the 737 MAX aircraft, with two-thirds of the fleet grounded by aviation authorities or airlines. In October, the same model crashed in Indonesia minutes after take-off, killing 189 people and sparking concerns over automated flight systems.
Asrat said the pilot had been trained on the plane after the October Lion Air crash. "They were trained, the manual updated and simulator training was completed," he said.
He said Ethiopian Airlines would consider whether to proceed with an order for more 737 MAX 8s after the preliminary investigation, but that the relationship with Boeing remained close. "It is very good, intact and even now they are here supporting us. The relationship is six decades old." (Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Catherine Evans and Mark Potter)