Antonis Mavropoulos knows he is lucky. Alone among passengers booked on to Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302, he got to the departure gate two minutes after it had closed. “I could see a guy in a green T-shirt and others boarding and I shouted to also be let in,” he says, his voice cracking with emotion. “I am still in a state of shock knowing what happened. I’ve found it very difficult to sleep since.”
Five days after the Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 Max 8 jet crashed within minutes of takeoff from Addis Ababa, the Greek chemical engineer says he feels he has a moral obligation to uncover why the plane went down, killing all 157 people onboard.
“As the guy who was saved just by luck I want to say something very clear,” he says. “The souls of these people, the people who I saw and all those who died, can never be relieved unless there are concrete answers and the truth is uncovered.”
The latest news alluding to design faults had especially unsettled him. “I have been reading a lot of reports about potential problematic designs, that the pilot asked soon after takeoff to go back, and to be honest it has freaked me out. I fly between 100 and 120 times a year. I very much hope this is not a case of criminal ignorance or of design issues being intentionally hidden,” he says during a phone interview from Beirut where he works much of the time as the head of an Athens-based waste management company.
The 53-year old, who also presides over the International Solid Waste Association, an NGO headquartered in Vienna, was on his way to Nairobi via Addis Abada last weekend to attend the UN environment assembly. Travelling from Beirut overnight, he was aware that his stopover was so short that he would have to make a run for it as soon as he landed.