Ethiopian Airlines returns to service its Boeing 737 MAX

Ethiopian Airlines operated its first passenger flight in a Boeing 737 MAX 8 on Tuesday, 35 months after the crash of its ET302 flight which killed 157 people and grounded all American re-engined single-aisle aircraft in the world. The 737-8s resume commercial service this Wednesday morning.

February 1, 2022 saw the Ethiopian flag carrier’s 737-8 (ET-AVI) take off from Addis Ababa-Bole airport with passengers on board, a first since March 10, 2019. On board were the Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing executives as well as government officials, journalists and “customers.” The loop took 4 hours and 12 minutes, apparently no problem. Upon stepping off the plane, CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said, “Safety is Ethiopian Airlines’ top priority and it guides every decision we make and every action we take. It is in accordance with this guiding principle that we are now returning the 737 MAX to service, not only after recertification by the FAA, EASA, Transport Canada, CAAC, ECAA and other regulators, but also after the type was returned to service by 36 airlines worldwide”.

In accordance with its initial commitment to be one of the last airlines to return to service the MAX also involved in the Lion Air crash five months earlier (flight JT610, 189 victims), the manager considers that he “took enough time to oversee design change work and more than 20 months of rigorous recertification processes, and ensured that our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians and cabin crew are confident in the safety of the fleet. The airline’s confidence is further demonstrated by flying senior executives, the chairman of the board and other senior government officials on the first flight.”

The Star Alliance airline currently has four 737-8s and expects 25 more, some of which will be delivered this year. This Wednesday morning, one of them must operate the scheduled flight ET931 shortly after 9:00 a.m. to Enugu-Akanu Ibiam in Nigeria, the first scheduled flight of its type in the country for 35 months. According to Flightradar24, the next MAX flight will take place on Thursday, between Addis Ababa and Khartoum. Ethiopian Airlines has already cited a dozen destinations likely to accommodate the 737 MAX 8, configured to accommodate 16 passengers in Business class and 144 in Economy, including Cairo or Istanbul.

This return to service of the 737 MAX, announced at the beginning of September, was done according to the CEO after a financial agreement with Boeing, “satisfactory” but obviously without details. The sources of the Seattle Times then spoke of a payment of 280 million dollars, the replacement of the destroyed aircraft, discounts on future aircraft orders, and three years of maintenance and free spare parts, or about 600 million dollars in total value.

More than 400 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft had been grounded around the world while the MCAS software involved in the two crashes was corrected. The MAX 8 had been recertified by the FAA in November 2020, with most regulators having since followed suit. Including those of Ethiopia and lately Indonesia.