The pilot of a Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 that crashed six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, had alerted controllers "he had difficulties" and wanted to turn back the plane carrying 157 people, the head of Ethiopian Airlines said.
The pilot "was given clearance" to return to Addis, chief executive officer Tewolde GebreMariam told journalists in the Ethiopian capital when asked whether there had been a distress call.
Ethiopia's state broadcaster said all passengers on the Ethiopian Airlines plane are dead.
The airline has said 157 people were thought to be on board the flight to Nairobi on Sunday morning.
Broadcaster EBC said the passengers included 33 nationalities.