Following the recent Ethopian airline crash, Boeing 737 the world’s best-selling aircraft Next-Generation 737 has become a dreaded death-trap for the flying public rather than a tool that guarantees aviation safety.
Over the years, the aircraft manufacturer, Boeing promised to guarantee the safety of commercial airplanes produced by its manufacturers. Boeing also said that its airplanes were designed to prevent failures and to provide protection in the unlikely event that there is a failure. According to the company, the aircrafts have multiple levels of redundancy (backups) which will prevent the air craft from accident.
However, these promises seems to not have been kept as one of the aircraft type produced by the company, Boeing 737 Max 8 has recorded two crashes leading to the death of over 350 people, since it was launched in 2017.
On October 29th, 2018, an Indonesian airline, Lion Air flight 610, took off from the Soekarno-Hatta international airport in Jakarta at 6:21 a.m. The flight’s destination was Pangkal Pinang, the provincial capital of a small island in the Java Sea. But eleven minutes after takeoff, the plane plunged into the sea. All 189 passengers were killed.
This sad occurrence was followed by Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 bound for Nairobi that crashed minutes after take-off from the Bole International Airport, Addis-Ababa, on March 10th, 2019 killing all 157 people on board.
It should be noted that the aircraft used by both airlines involved in the crash are the same model 737 Max 8 airplane from American aerospace manufacturer — Boeing.
Boeing 737 MAX, a new family of twin-engine airliners developed by Boeing, is based on the world’s best-selling aircraft Next-Generation 737. The MAX is the latest version of Boeing’s highly successful twin-engine 737 aircraft. The 737 MAX aircraft family includes the 737 MAX 7, 737 MAX 8, 737 MAX 9, 737 MAX 10, and 737 MAX 200 variants. The new range of aircraft is intended to deliver unsurpassed fuel efficiency for the customers in the single-aisle segment.
The variants can transport between 138 and 204 passengers and are designed for short- and medium-haul flights. The 737 MAX development programme was approved by the company’s board of directors in August 2011. The first 737 MAX 7 was launched in May 2013. The first 737 Max entered service in May 2017, while Boeing rolled out the first 737 MAX 8 in December 2015.The aircraft made its first flight in January 2016 and was first delivered to Malindo Air in May 2017. The 737 line, which has flown for over 50 years, is the world’s best selling modern passenger aircraft. The 737 MAX has more than 4,700 orders from 102 customers worldwide. As of January 2019, the Boeing 737 MAX has received 5,011 firm orders and delivered 350.
The 737 MAX 8 is part of a family of airplanes that offer 130 to 230 seats and the ability to fly up to 3,850 nautical miles (7,130 kilometres).With improvements such as the CFM International LEAP-1B engine and Advanced Technology winglets, the 737 MAX was made to help reduce fuel costs for airlines. The MAX8 offers a seating capacity of 178 to 210 max. It has a length of 129 ft 6 in (39.47m), a wingspan of 117 ft 10 in (35,9m) and a maximum payload of 46,040 lb (20,882 kg). It also has a longer fuselage than the MAX 7.
The MAX 8 also boasted a lower empty weight than the A320neo. In cruise at 140,500 lb (63,700 kg), the MAX 8 burns 4,460 lb (2,020 kg) per hour at Mach 0.78 (450 kn; 833 km/h) and FL350.
Boeing 737 Max 8 is already in use around the world by other airlines including American Airlines, Air Italy, FlyDubai, LOT Polish Airlines, Norwegian Air and TUI Airways.The new MAX 8 variant which entered service in 2017, were intended to become the workhorses and improve the fuel-efficiency for airlines around the globe.
However, the recent occurrence has made several airlines to ground the 737 MAX 8 jets.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has temporarily suspended the operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft into and out of Singapore”.
“There is also a temporary suspension Boeing 737 Max to and from Australia while we wait for more information to review the safety risks” Civil Aviation Safety Authority CEO, Shane Carmody said in a statement.
Similarly, the South Korea’s transport ministry advised Eastar Jet, the only South Korean airline that owns the B737-8 – the same model involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash – to ground them.
China’s Civil Aviation Administration also ordered domestic airlines to suspend operation of the Boeing 737 Max 8, citing the two crashes.
The United Kingdom has also joined the trend as it has issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace. The UK has five Max 8 jets in operation with a sixth one scheduled to start operating last week.
Other airlines around the globe that did not ground their airlines have expressed concern over the situation while promising to monitor closely airlines operating the 737 MAX 8. Therefore, what is the fate of Nigerian airlines?
Recall that a domestic airline, Air Peace, signed a deal with a United States-based airline manufacturer, Boeing, for the purchase of 10 new aircraft in September, last year. This has left so many air passengers in the country bothered as to whether they would be able to patronize the airline.
Corporate Communications Manager, Air Peace, Mr. Chris Iwarah in a statement has said that the airline has no plans to cancel its order for 10 Boeing 737-MAX 800 airplanes. He noted that any decision to cancel the order was premature since Investigations into the crashes involving the air craft are ongoing.
Although there is no certainty on Air peace’s position about the orders, there is a probability that after the investigations have been concluded, members of the public will not want patronize the airline if it does not cancel the order. Following the recent happenings, air travelers who are majorly concerned about their safety may find it difficult to trust the competency of Boeing 737-MAX 8 which will affect the patronage of the airline.
However, an attempt to reach the airline’s spoke person, Chris Iwarah by MMS Plus to react to this issue proved abortive as his phone lines were switched off.
Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation noted that the Nigerian government has banned the Boeing 737 Max aircraft from flying in the country.
“The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, whose mandate it is to issue advisory, has already issued advisory that nobody should fly into Nigeria or out of Nigeria using Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9, pending the determination of the actual cause of the crash in Ethiopia and also pending the outcome of the response of the manufacturer, which is Messers Boeing” he said.
“Regarding Air Peace and Arik orders, whether those orders were confirmed or intent, it is to our knowledge in the ministry that they won’t be in the country until the next two years or so. And this is enough period to sort out whatever problem it is with that plane. The world of aviation will not be sleeping just as we in Nigeria will not be sleeping. And it is normal standard practice that once a particular aircraft type is involved in accident back to back, it is withdrawn from the market to see if there is something they are doing wrong”.
“And if it is confirmed that a particular problem, say for instance, landing gear, they will issue an instruction to ground such plane worldwide until the problem is fixed” he opined.
Meanwhile, The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has assured the flying public of their safety adding that the accident aircraft type, Boeing 737 –Max 8 is not in operation in the Country.
Mr Sam Adurogboye, General Manager, Public Relations, NCAA while speaking with MMS Plus said that the outcome of the investigation would determine the aviation sector’s continued partnership with Boeing.
“The position is that the accident has happened. The procedure is that the accident will have to be investigated, after which a report about the investigation would be made. This report will be the basis for safety recommendations which will be enforced by us. We will also allow the aircraft manufacturer to go back and find out the cause of the crash. If there is an error with the aircraft, they will come up with a directive to be enforced. Those are the steps to be followed and that is why we said in our release that we are monitoring the development” he said.
Adurogboye noted that NCAA will not take any decision based on sentiment or emotions.
“If we are to take decisions based on what happened, then it will be a baseless conclusion with no fact because we are yet to know what the cause of the accident is. We can’t say we would not use Boeing because a fact hasn’t been established. Its either we are using Boeing or Air bus. Every aircraft that is in operation all over the world has been involved in accident at one time or the other. Will we now say that we won’t fly again? No. The authority will stay on the side of caution, monitor the development and take appropriate action based established fact. That is the way to go”.
Several other airlines such as the Southwest Airlines Co and American Airlines Group Inc have remained confident in the services of the 737 line, which is the world’s best selling modern passenger aircraft and viewed as one of the industry’s most reliable.
While investigators work to find the cause of the crash, the spotlight has so far been placed on Boeing, if it will ever gain the trust of its customers. Boeing has also recorded almost 10 percent slid in its shares following the crash. This would be the biggest fall in Boeing’s stock in nearly two decades.
Ethiopian Airlines disclosed that the Investigators have recovered the cockpit voice and flight-data recorders which will aid investigations related to the crash. Boeing therefore has a lot of work to do in reassuring its customers of the aircrafts safety and reliability. The aircraft manufacturer should also ensure that the situation is properly addressed to prevent the loss of lives and properties in the future.