The Ethiopian Airlines has started operating the Boeing 737 MAX for the first time since a crash nearly three years ago killed all 157 people on board and sparked the global grounding of the aircraft.
In March 2019, flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi plunged six minutes after takeoff into a field southeast of the Ethiopian capital, just five months after a similar crash in Indonesia that left 189 people dead.
The twin disasters and a follow up scrutiny of the 737 MAX’s faulty flight handling system — referred to as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) — added up to the worst crisis in Boeing’s history.
For a while, the state-owned Ethiopian Airlines which is the jewel of Africa’s second most populous country’s economy said it would be the last carrier to use the single-aisle jets again.
However, via a statement to the AFP, the airline said the decision to resume 737 MAX flights came after “intense recertification” by regulators in the United States, the European Union, China and Ethiopia.
The first passenger flight was set to take place Tuesday, the airline said, without giving details.
At the time of the crash, the airline had four of the jets in its fleet. It has however provided an updated list of 35 other carriers that are currently flying them.
“Our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians, and cabin crew are fully prepared to take the B737 MAX back to the skies and we look forward to welcoming you on board,” the statement read.
Yeshiwas Fentahun, who was president of Ethiopia’s independent pilots’ association in 2019 but is no longer with the company said
the decision to wait as long as it did before flying the 737 MAX again was “really commendable”.
He added that the loss of the flight crew — including its youngest captain, Yared Getachew — was traumatic for all employees.
“There were pilots who were close to the people who lost their lives in the accident, and it’s really hard to say if everyone has moved past that experience,” he said.
“But I believe it’s a reasonable time for most of us to move past that experience.”
The victims of the Flight 302 crash, the worst in Ethiopia’s history, hailed from over 30 nations.
According to legal documents filed in November in Chicago, where the company is headquartered, Boeing has struck an agreement with the victims’ families and accepted responsibility for the crash,
However, the proposed agreement did not mention specific sums, as jurors will be responsible for assessing amounts.