The pilot of the doomed Ethiopian Airlines plane which crashed killing all 157 on board begged air traffic control to land, minutes before the tragedy.
Yared Getachew, captain of the Boeing 737 Max 8, was granted clearance to return to base after he experienced flight control problems on Sunday minutes into the journey to Nairobi, Kenya.
Now the CEO of the airline has revealed the last messages between Mr Getachew and air traffic control.
Airline chief Tewolde GebreMariam said: “According to the air traffic controller’s recorded voice exchange, the pilot recorded flight control problems, so he was having difficulties with the flight control of the aeroplane.
“He asked to return back to base, and clearance was given to him.”
But he told CNN: “That was at 8.44am, at the same time the aeroplane disappeared from the radar.”
It is unclear at this stage what flight control problems the crew experienced.
But Mr GebreMariam stressed all employees were given new training after the Lion Air disaster last year, which saw another Boeing 737 Max 8 plunge to the ground in Indonesia.
The aviation boss continued: “They’re both the same aeroplane model, brand new aeroplanes, and also the flights were very short.
“The fact that many other countries are also now raising cautions on the aeroplane shows there is very significant similarities (between) the two accidents.
“There are a lot of questions to be answered on the aeroplane.”
Now the black box, which records data, will be sent to Paris for analysis.
Mr GebreMariam said Mr Gatechew was a “commendable” pilot with an excellent flying record who had clocked up more than 8000 flight hours.
He was accompanied in the cockpit by the experienced first officer Ahmed Nur Mohammod Nur.
The disaster has rocked the global aviation industry.
Boeing has tonight said it is pausing deliveries of its 737 MAX aircraft to customers in the wake of the deadly crash.
Multiple nations, including all in the European Union, have suspended the 737 MAX, grounding about two-thirds of the 371 jets of that make in operation around the world.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority also announced it had banned the jet from UK airspace.
And Donald Trump has ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 jets.
The US president said Boeing “is an incredible company” but, for now, has notified all airlines of his decision.
Speaking at the White House, the former businessman said: “All of those planes are grounded effectively immediately.
“Boeing is an incredible company. They are working very, very hard right now and hopefully, they’ll come up with an answer, but until they do, all planes are grounded.
“We are going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition to ground all flights of the 737 MAX 8 and the 737 MAX 9 and planes associated with that line.”