Ethiopian Airlines put trust in Boeing, returns MAX to service

Three years after Ethiopian Airlines grounded all its B737 MAX following a devastating crash six minutes after take-off that claimed all 157 souls aboard near the town of Bishoftu, the airline, regarded as the biggest carrier in Africa will tomorrow February 1, 2022, put back the aircraft type into service.

The carrier will conduct a demonstration flight of B737 MAX to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania on February 1, 2022.

Bold decision, trust for Boeing

The decision to put back the B737 MAX into service shows the tremendous confidence the airline’s helmsmen have in the ability of the American aircraft maker after the planes were certified by the  US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and approved them fit for operations.

A top official of the carrier who spoke to Aviation Metric Addis Ababa,  Ethiopia but preferred to remain anonymous disclosed that he would be aboard the first Ethiopian airlines B737 Max flight three years after the aircraft was suspended from service by the airline after the devastating accident that but the Boeing company in the eyes of the storm.

He stated that tomorrow’s flight shows the courage and trust that Ethiopia has for Boeing.  The Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde GebreMariam could not be reached for comments.

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When Ethiopian flight ET302 crashed six minutes after takeoff from Addis Abeba airport on March 10, 2019, killing 157 occupants, it became clear that there were striking similarities with the Lion Air accident near Jakarta just five months earlier.

Two quick accidents raise red flag

GebreMariam went to the crash site near the village of Ejere and just found a deep crater and debris where his MAX 8, which was delivered in November 2018, has crashed.

The crew, initially blamed even by Boeing for incompetence, had surrendered after trying in vain to fight uncommanded trim input from the now notorious Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) and nose-dived into the ground.

The two accidents resulted in the grounding of the MAX and numerous investigations. In November 2020, the FAA and Brazil’s ANAC were the first to approve the return to service if only after extensive modifications and training.

Ethiopian has stated on numerous occasions that it would be one of the last airlines to bring the MAX back into service, if ever.

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Late last year, GebreMariam said, “In line with our initially stated commitment to become among the last airlines to return the B737 MAX, we have taken enough time to monitor the design modification work and the more than 20 months of rigorous recertification process and we have ensured that our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians, cabin crew are confident on the safety of the fleet. The airplane model has accumulated more than 275.000 commercial flights since the resumption of B737 MAX operation a year ago.”

Ethiopian has some convincing to do

The airline CEO also said: “Safety is our topmost priority at Ethiopian Airlines and it guides every decision we make and all actions we take. It is in line with this guiding principle that we are now returning the B737 MAX to service not only after the recertification by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), EASA of Europe, Transport Canada, CAAC, ECAA, and other regulatory bodies but also after the return to service by more than 34 airlines around the world.”

While Ethiopian has now regained confidence in the MAX, the carrier has some serious work to do to convince the flying public. Many Ethiopians have stated never to fly the type again.

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GebreMariam acknowledges this problem in his statement: “Ethiopian Airlines has put in place rigorous and comprehensive processes to ensure that every plane in the sky is safe.

In the next month, we will update the traveling public on further details and progresses. We always prioritize customers’ safety and I am confident that our customers will enjoy onboard safety and comfort that we have been known for.”

Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam

Ethiopian had received five MAX 8s until the crash in March 2019, with another 25 on order. In January, Boeing agreed to pay Ethiopian and Lion Air $2.5 billion in compensation over both accidents to avoid future criminal prosecution.

In November, the airframer and the families of the 157 victims of flight ET302 reached a settlement in a civil case. Boeing acknowledged its liability for damages and families dismissed further allegations against the airframer, although some are still considering a trial.

Wole Shadare