Confusion and prayer in Lion Air cockpit

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"Boeing and the FAA have been found wanting in this ugly saga that began years ago but has come home to roost with two bad fatal crashes, with no survivors, in less than five months, on a new airplane type, the Boeing 737 Max 8, something that is unprecedented in modern aviation history", Sullenberger wrote.

The first report of the pilots' conversation from last October's Lion Air crash emerged today, along with news that the same aircraft had been saved from disaster a day earlier by an off-duty pilot on the airliner. A different crew on the same plane the evening before encountered the same problem but solved it after running through three checklists, according to the November report. He told them to cut power to the motor in the trim system which was responsible for driving the nose downwards.

Boeing Co declined to comment because the investigation was ongoing.

Pilots have complained they were not informed about the new system, which can force the nose of the plane down if it gets an erroneous reading from a sensor making it appear the plane is at risk of stalling.

Boeing was sued on Wednesday in federal court in Chicago by the estate of one of the Lion Air crash victims in which the plaintiffs referred to the Ethiopian crash to support a wrongful death claim against the company.

On doomed Lion Air Flight 610, pilots searched in a handbook for a way to stop the plane from nosediving, according to an exclusive Reuters report.

Calgary-based WestJet said it took steps prior to the MAX grounding to start protecting trans-border flights to sunny destinations that were previously scheduled to fly with the carrier's 13 MAX planes.

The Ethiopian Minister of Transport said preliminary data recovered from the black boxes of the crash in Ethiopia showed similarities to the Air Lion crash.

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In the past, Europe and Canada would have accepted the findings of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Similarly to what occurred a day later, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 also ended up being automatically pitched nose down, but the flight crew shut down the MCAS (the anti-stall system) and continued the flight manually, landing "without incident". Critics question whether the agency relied too much on Boeing to vouch for critical safety matters and whether it understood the significance of a new automated flight-control system on the Max.

The plane then crashed into the sea.

In Ethiopia, experts were examining the in-flight recording of the captain and first officer of the Ethiopian Airlines flight.

About one minute before the plane disappeared from radar, the captain asked air traffic control to clear other traffic below 3,000 feet and requested an altitude of "five thou", or 5,000 feet, which was approved, the preliminary report said.

Most of the 737 Max 8s in circulation have been grounded following last week's crash.

Representatives of the Justice Department, the FBI and Transportation Department declined to comment, saying they could neither confirm nor deny an investigation.

The FAA's assurance that the plane was still safe to fly was good enough for the rest of the world until an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 crashed.