Countries and airlines react to tragic Ethiopian Airlines crash

Lauren Eldershaw
By Lauren Eldershaw March 11, 2019 15:16

Countries and airlines react to tragic Ethiopian Airlines crash

Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased passengers on board the fatal Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302, which crashed shortly after take-off on the morning of March 10 from Addis Ababa airport killing all 149 passengers and eight crew members.

Ethiopian Airlines confirmed that the crashed 737-800Max 8 had flown back to Addis from Johannesburg prior to the fatal journey and “underwent a rigorous first check maintenance in February 04, 2019”. The airline also released the name of the senior captain, Yared Getachew, who had a cumulative flight hour of more than 8000 with “a commendable performance” who was “commanding the flight along with first officer Ahmed Nur Mohammod Nur who had a flight hour of 200”.

The Digital Flight Data Recorder(DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder(CVR) of ET302 have been recovered today. Ethiopian Airlines Group confirmed that it suspended the commercial operations of all Boeing 737Max 8 aircraft immediately after the tragic accident, while the cause of the crash is investigated  by the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and other international entities, including Boeing, from the black box data.

China was the first regulatory body to ground the 737Max8 fleet but it has been joined by Indonesia, whose government has issued a temporary halt to flights of that aircraft type. Indonesia’s Lion Air 737Max 8 aircraft crashed shortly after take-off in October last year killing all on board.

I do not like commenting on accidents without the final conclusions to hand but in this case an exception should be made. China has ordered the grounding of 737 Max types, Cayman Airways has grounded its two new 737 Max jets, Ethiopian has already grounded its fleet of the type. What will American and Southwest do in the US, what will TUI do in Europe? Also spare a thought for Norwegian – if it has to ground its profitable Max fleet then this could well be the tipping point for the airline. Manufacturers have played a large part in destroying the Norwegian business model over recent years.

All of these major airlines will be pummelled in the media if they continue flying the Max8 and one subsequently falls out of the sky. This time the two black boxes/flight data & cockpit recorders have been recovered quickly and that will make a serious difference.

There have been around 400 deliveries of the Max 8 and Boeing is producing them at an unprecedented rate. Boeing will be asked over the coming days if that production levels are possibly too rapid. Given that the Lion Air and Ethiopian crash situations are similar and both involve an assumed technical fault on take-off, surely airlines must consider the fact that if they fly the Max and suffer an accident then they will suffer extended litigation claims and stern questions.

I would also argue strongly that the airline industry as a whole cannot risk another Max incident at any time during 2019 or the public will begin to stop flying non-essential trips or avoid the type altogether. The media will have a field day against our industry, and Boeing shareholders cannot take the risk. The real power here lies in the hands of EASA and the FAA to follow China’s lead and ground the type until a satisfactory explanation comes from Boeing HQ as to what is going on. Aside from the FAA and EASA, I would argue that we need to consider the insurance companies in all this, they are being hit hard, underwriters must now look to do more to force airlines to question flying the type until answers are obtained and the problem is fixed.

Boeing shares will suffer heavily today and this could be a very big hit for the industry, but safety must, and usually does, always come first. This might well be a litmus test for that cherished safety-first phrase, make no mistake.

Lauren Eldershaw
By Lauren Eldershaw March 11, 2019 15:16