As Fear Grips Global Aviation Industry

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Chinedu Eze

The crash on Sunday of Ethiopia Airlines Flight ET302 six minutes after take from Addis Ababa to Nairobi in which 157 persons on board died, has reinforced fear about air travel.

Although it is acknowledged that air travel is the safest means of transport, but apprehension stemmed from the fact that the aircraft involved in the crash, Boeing 737MAX 8, is a new aircraft, which was barely five months in the fleet of Ethiopia Airlines and that another aircraft type operated by Lion Air about six months ago, precisely October 29, 2018, had crashed in the same way, eight minutes after take-off in Indonesia.

The grief about the death cannot be stemmed for a long time, but it seems to have been taken over by fear of another crash by the same aircraft type, hence the world’s agitation and worry. This is because the two accidents have already led to a combined loss of 346 lives!

The cause of the crash would be revealed after investigation, but because the crash of Ethiopia Airlines flight was similar to that of Lion Air involving the same aircraft type, industry experts believe that the problem lies in the aircraft rather than the safety of the airlines involved in the accident.

Preliminary report on Lion Air B737MAX 8 crash indicated that the accident might have been caused by Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which simple could be referred to as anti-stall computer system. MCAS is automated safety feature on the 737 Max 8 designed to prevent the plane from entering into a stall, or losing lift.

Because similar action took place in the two aircraft before they crashed, almost at the same time they took off, industry experts have linked the two accidents to the same problem, which investigation would confirm, disprove or throw more light on.

However, the manufacturer of the aircraft, Boeing has not in any statement ruled out the that possibility; rather, the second highest aircraft manufacturer in the world promised to update flight control systems on its 737 Max 8 commercial jetliners after the plane was involved in two deadly accidents in the past six months.
“Boeing has been working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on development, planning and certification of the software enhancement, and it will be deployed across the 737 Max fleet in the coming weeks,” the US based aircraft manufacturer said.

The crash sent panic to Nigerian travellers who see Ethiopia Airlines as a household carrier, which has airlifted thousands of passengers from the country. Many Nigerians also believed that Nigerian airlines, especially Air Peace, which recently ordered 10 B737MAX 8 has the aircraft in its fleet.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) allayed the fear in a statement, which insisted that no Nigerian airline operates the aircraft type. Air Peace also issued a statement, saying that it does not have such aircraft in its fleet but acknowledged that it ordered 10 of the aircraft, which would start arriving in 2023.
Industry analyst, Kola Semiu also explained, “The Air Peace order of 10 of these brand new planes is a laudable achievement by any standards worldwide but the planes have not been delivered yet and, as such, not in their operations and fleet.

“Deliveries of an order made in the last quarter of 2018 will, going by Boeing’s normal delivery schedules, may take between four years to six years! Therefore, the earliest this airline may get these planes into their fleet could be 2023!

“By this time, Boeing may have rectified whatever problem it is with the aircraft if investigations reveal so. If the problem is with the aircraft and Boeing, though unthinkable, fails or refuses to rectify the fault, the airline, like many others, will naturally cancel the orders.”
Air Peace however said that it has confidence in Boeing to tackle the problem.
So far, Boeing is reported to have delivered 350 of the 737 MAX 8 since 2017 and has orders for 5000 more. However, as airlines in multiple countries suspend the use of the plane, it is unlikely those orders will go through.

Currently the airlines that have the plane on their roster are: Norwegian Air, Air China, SpiceJet, Southwest Airlines, Icelandair, Flydubai, Air Italy, TUI, LOT Polish Airlines, AeroMexico, Oman Air, SmartWings, Aerolineas Argentinas, Lion Air, Corendon Airlines, China Southern, Ethiopean Airlines, Air Canada, Garuda Indonesia, United Airlines, American Airlines, Xiamen Airlines, WestJet, Turkish Airlines, SCAT Airlines, Chian Eastern, Shanghai Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Jet Airways, Okay Airways, GOL, SilkAir, S7 Siberia Airlines, Copa Airlines, Lucky Air, Sunwing Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Mauritania Airlines International, Shandong Airlines, Fiji Air, Enter Air, Cayman Airways, and Comair.

It has to be noted also that Ethiopia Airlines is the most reputable and most profitable carrier in Africa, which has over 70 years of successful operation with advanced technical know-how. It has one of the best aircraft maintenance facilities in Africa.

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