Moving on from the past: Ethiopian Airlines resumes Boeing 737-8 Max orders

Almost three years following the deadly crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, which was presumably caused by a fault with the Boeing 737-8 MAX, the airline has begun steadily ordering the aircraft again.

Although many carriers have been safely using the aircraft for regular commercial flights, and extensive research has been conducted by Boeing to rectify errors with the 737-8 MAX, there remain a number of unanswered questions, fears and concerns from the average passenger.

Boeing 737-8 MAX
Boeing 737-8 MAX N8704Q at Farnborough Airshow 2016 ©pjs2005 from Hampshire, UK

Joining the rest of the aviation world

Ethiopian Airlines was careful in its decision to re-establish a fleet of 737-8 MAXs. Flight 302 to Nairobi from Addis Ababa crashed a mere six minutes after take-off and killed all 157 crew and passengers. It was the third in a streak of similar fatal and catastrophic accidents that year, exposing a critical issue with the 737-8 MAX.

The model was internationally grounded by the Federal Aviation Authority, leaving Boeing scrambling to fix their mistakes, take accountability for their mishandlings in court and earn the trust of airlines and frequent flyers again. Additionally, the company had to pay $20 billion to all affected parties.

Since then, the Boeing 737-8 MAX has undergone vigorous and meticulous modifications. Brazil, the United States, most of Europe, Australia, Indonesia, China and many more countries accepted these adjustments and welcomed the plane back into their fleets. Ethiopian Airlines’ decision to join much of the aviation world in this development came ‘after intense recertification’ by several internal regulators. In a statement made in December, the airline’s CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said,

“We have taken enough time to monitor the design modification work and the more than 20 months of rigorous rectification process … our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians, cabin crew are confident of the safety of the fleet.”


Flight crash
Rubble from Ethiopian Airlines crash flight 302 ©Business Insider

A difficult past

Not all are pleased with this new decision by Ethiopian airlines, particularly the families of the victims of flight 302. Robert Clifford, the legal representative for the loved ones, noted the few independent investigations conducted by Ethiopian regarding the crash and how the airline had continued to fail the families. He stated that the decision was

“…really disappointing…a sad reminder for the crash victims’ families…knowing that the Boeing MAX will fly again, even in Ethiopia where the crash happened.”

Furthermore, Tom Kabau, who sadly lost his brother George in the crash, remarked,

“I will never fly in a MAX, and certainly, if I find myself booked into a MAX, I will have to cancel that flight,”

Is there a need for concern?

It may be fair to argue that the Boeing 737-8 MAX, with its improvements and new ‘clean’ record, is safe to fly and worth taking to the skies. Despite China having recently introduced a new ban on the model, most countries and airlines are more than trusting of its capabilities and potential in the future. For now, there is nothing to be concerned about.

A bigger issue here would be for airlines, and perhaps even Boeing, to consistently consider the average flyer; The passenger with little knowledge of the systems, the research analytics and even the science behind a craft in the air. The pilots too, who felt ill-informed and under-trained during the first roll-out of the plane, need to be at the forefront consistently. A failure to appreciate these parties could lead to both a severe lack of trust and a lack of motivation, which have more than just commercial disadvantages. This is especially important as Boeing currently faces similar regulatory issues with its 737- MAX 10.

What do you make of this recent development, and how do you feel about the 787-8 MAX back in Ethiopian skies?

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Chiyedza Zunzanyika
Chiyedza Zunzanyika
Chiyedza is a final year Law student at the University of Bristol with a passion for writing and research. She centres her articles at TravelRadar on the development of aviation in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.




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