Africa’s largest airline Ethiopian Airlines plans to resume Boeing 737 MAX flights in January after agreeing to an out-of-court settlement with the Seattle planemaker. The Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD)-based carrier was awaiting compensation from Boeing following the fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302.
On 10 March 2019, flight 302 took off from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD) at 08:38 local time bound for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) in Nairobi, Kenya. One minute into the flight, the first officer reported a flight control problem to the tower. A minute later, the aircraft’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) activated, pitching the plane’s nose towards the ground. As the pilots struggled to control the aircraft, the MCAS triggered again, forcing the aircraft towards the ground. Unable to gain control, the plane crashed near the town of Bishoftu, killing all 157 people aboard.
The MAX was subject to a global grounding
The incident followed a similar Boeing 737 MAX crash in Indonesia four months earlier when Lion Air flight number 610 crashed shortly after takeoff killing all 189 passengers and crew. Following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, the 737 MAX was grounded while investigators looked to see what had caused the two fatal crashes.
It was determined that the MCAS was responsible and that Boeing had to fix the issue.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the Boeing 737 MAX to return to service in November 2020, and other aviation authorities soon followed suit.
Ethiopian Airlines is convinced that the MAX is safe
While most other airlines with 737 MAX aircraft in their fleets were quick to reinstate the planes, Ethiopian Airlines continued to wait. When speaking about the decision to return the Boeing 737 MAX into service, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said he is convinced that the aircraft is safe to fly. In an interview carried by financial newswire service Bloomberg Tewolde GebreMariam said:
“I can confirm that we are committed to the Boeing 737 MAX, my estimate is by the end of the calendar year or beginning of next year, January, we will be flying the airplane.”
While the deal Ethiopian Airlines reached with Boeing is confidential, the African carrier now considers the matter finalized.
“We have settled our case with Boeing; that’s why we are now starting the process to fly back the airplane,” Tewolde said. “This happened in the last three months. We are happy on the settlement.”
Ethiopian Airlines wants to work with Boeing
Earlier this year, Boeing reached a $2.5 billion agreement to settle a criminal charge that it had defrauded the US government by concealing information about the jet. This settlement included close to $1.8 billion that Boeing had to reimburse 737 MAX customers. Ethiopian Airlines settlement with Boeing was not a part of the US settlement.
Ethiopian Airlines showed a further side of healing with Boeing after announcing a partnership with the planemaker to expand its hub at Addis Ababa.
“We are going to manufacture parts, components of airplanes and supply them to Boeing and Airbus and other manufacturers,” Tewolde said. The agreement will boost Ethiopian’s growth, and ultimately, “we plan to move to an industrial park,” he said.