The pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines plane which crashed on Sunday, killing 157 people, reported a “flight control” problem within a minute of takeoff, according to air traffic communication records.

Controllers also observed that the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft was moving up and down by hundreds of feet and feared that something was wrong, a US media report said.

Three minutes into the flight, pilot Yared Getachew sent another message requesting permission to return to the airport, according to an anonymous source who spoke to The New York Times.

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"Break break, request back to home," the captain reportedly told air traffic controllers in an anxious voice. "Request vector for landing."

At this point controllers realised that the aircraft was travelling at an unusually high speed.

Five minutes after the plane's departure, the controllers lost all contact with it, the Times report said.

The plane crashed near Addis Ababa just six minutes after leaving the airport, killing everyone on board.

The controllers feared there was an emergency before the first message arrived, according to the person who viewed the communications.

Investigators trying to determine the cause of the crash have recovered its black boxes, which contain more information about the flight's final moments. On Thursday the flight recorders arrived in France for analysis.

Countries around the world have grounded Boeing's 737 MAX jets while the investigation is carried out.

Boeing executives announced that they had paused delivery of the aircraft, although the company planned to continue building them while it weighed the effect of the grounding on production.

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When the US Federal Aviation Administration ordered the planes grounded on Wednesday it said regulators had new satellite evidence that showed the movements of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were similar to those of Lion Air Flight 610.

That flight crashed into the Java Sea off Indonesia in October last year, killing 189 people.

Additional reporting by agencies


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