Ethiopian Plane Crash and Western Media Coverage

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Chinedu Eze

If there were no Lion Air crash Flight 610 involving Boeing 737MAX, the same aircraft type that was also involved in the Ethiopian Airlines, there are indications that the attention would have been more on the maintenance culture of the African airline rather than on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) generally believed to be responsible for the two accidents.

But despite what has been identified as the common cause of the accidents, there are still desperate moves in some quarters, especially in the US media to indict Ethiopia Airlines and question the integrity of its safety standards.

Reuters was quoted alleging that the pilot in command of the ill-fated flight, Yared Getachew, was not trained for the aircraft type. The allegation was attributed to the late pilot’s colleague. Few days go also, major US cable network said Ethiopia Airlines had good record until the crash.

Reacting to the allegation that Captain Getachew was untrained, Ethiopia Airlines said it was not true; that the pilot was well trained for the job.

The East African carrier said the late pilot in command and the flight officer underwent Boeing recommended and US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved differences training from the B737-NG aircraft to the B737-MAX.

As efforts are being made to rope Ethiopia Airlines into the accident beyond what has been agreed to be the cause of both its and Lion Air accident in which 346 persons died, the Group CEO of Ethiopia Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam reminded the aviation industry and the world that Ethiopia Airlines is a highly reputed carrier to come out of Africa, emphasising that despite the accident, the airline still maintained its good safety record.

“As a state-owned airline and the flagship carrier for our nation, we carry the torch for the Ethiopian brand around the world. In a nation that sometimes is saddled with negative stereotypes, accidents like this affect our sense of pride. Yet this tragedy won’t define us.

“We pledge to work with Boeing and our colleagues in all the airlines to make air travel even safer. As the largest aviation group on the continent of Africa, we represent The New Spirit of Africa and will continue to move forward.

“We are rated as a 4-star global airline with a high safety record and member of Star Alliance. That will not change,” Gebremariam said.

He said that the airline would fully cooperate with Boeing and other concerned authorities in the investigation of the accident.

“The investigation of the accident is well underway, and we will learn the truth. At this time, I do not want to speculate as to the cause. Many questions on the B-737 MAX airplane remain without answers, and I pledge full and transparent cooperation to discover what went wrong. “As it is well known in our global aviation industry, the differences training between the B-737 NG and the B-737 MAX recommended by Boeing and approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration called for computer-based training, but we went beyond that.

“After the Lion Air accident in October, our pilots who fly the Boeing 737 Max 8 were fully trained on the service bulletin issued by Boeing and the Emergency Airworthiness Directive issued by the USA FAA.

“Among the seven Full Flight Simulators that we own and operate, two of them are for B-737 NG and the B-737 MAX. We are the only airline in Africa among the very few in the world with the B-737 MAX full flight Simulator. Contrary to some media reports, our pilots who fly the new model were trained on all appropriate simulators.

“The crews were well trained on this aircraft. Immediately after the crash and owing to the similarity with the Lion Air Accident, we grounded our fleet of Max 8s. Within days, the plane had been grounded around the world. I fully support this. Until we have answers, putting one more life at risk is too much,” he said.

Gebremariam, made a clear statement, saying that Ethiopia Airlines believes in Boeing because the aircraft manufacturer has been the airline’s partner for many years.

“More than two-thirds of our fleet is Boeing. We were the first African airline to fly the 767, 757, 777-200LR, and we were the second nation in the world (after Japan) to take delivery of the 787 Dreamliner.

“Less than a month ago, we took delivery of yet another new two 737 cargo planes (a different version from the one that crashed). The plane that crashed was less than five months old. Despite the tragedy, Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines will continue to be linked well into the future.

Gebremariam further said the airline would work with investigators in Ethiopia, in the US and elsewhere to figure out what went wrong with Fight 302.

“We resolve to work with Boeing and others to use this tragedy to make the skies safer for the world,” he added.