Just yesterday, Ethiopian Airlines had an unfortunate crash of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, on its way to Nairobi. 157 people lost their lives, including 149 passengers and 8 crew in this tragic incident. This comes very close after Lion Air had a similar incident about 5 months ago, where another Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft crashed as well.
Now, I know that there is a huge amount of correlation between the nature of the two incidents, and the fact that both occurred on practically brand new aircraft. But the first piece of advice I’ve been giving everyone is not to speculate. In the times of social media, everyone becomes an expert on every issue, but that, unfortunately, is not the solution to our problems.
The Boeing 737 MAX is a redesigned version of the Boeing 737, which is the workhorse of many airlines globally. Over 10,000 Boeing 737 aircraft fly around the globe, and the aircraft has had a successful safety record.
The new aircraft, the Boeing 737 MAX, entered service in 2017. With newer technologies and design specs, and more fuel-efficient design, the aircraft could go further and spend less fuel while getting there. Which, in airline economics means, the path to the profitability of an airline/route. At the moment 350 of these aircraft are in service, with over 5,000 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on order.
In India, SpiceJet and Jet Airways are the two Boeing customers for the 737 MAX range. SpiceJet has 205 on order, including their options, and Jet Airways has 225 on order.
It is very easy to spot the 737 MAX aircraft. If you are scheduled to fly one, you should see 7M8 as the equipment code for the 737 MAX 8. Or if you can’t find your equipment code, just look out for the engine cowling, which is serrated, so you are looking for a pattern like this below, which won’t be found on the older 737 aircraft lines.
Should the 737 MAX be grounded?
Accident Bulletin no. 5 Issued on March 11, 2019 at 07:08 AM Local Time pic.twitter.com/rwxa51Fgij
— Ethiopian Airlines (@flyethiopian) March 11, 2019
But, on the other hand, Southwest, which is one of the larger operators of the plane type, has placed confidence in the aircraft and are not allowing customers to change flights for free.
We remain confident in the Safety of our fleet of more than 750 Boeing aircraft and currently have a fleet of 34 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft on property. -Nicole
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) March 11, 2019
So what will Indian airlines do? In the case of Jet Airways, the 5 MAX aircraft they have are already grounded due to their lessor troubles. SpiceJet, the other 737 MAX operator from India, continues to use the aircraft, and has not issued any statement about their plans with the MAX 8 fleet for the moment.
I don’t expect the Indian regulator DGCA to be able to take the hard call to ground the plane type as a whole, given how they operated when the A320neo issues happened. The political reasons for not doing this, I will let you infer for yourself.
What should you do?
It depends on how confident you feel. Personally, if I was to fly a MAX, I would still do it. Aviation is much much safer than walking on the road and getting hit by a truck. But if you feel uncomfortable flying the MAX, you should look at switching to flights which are not operated by the MAX aircraft. However do not expect a waiver from SpiceJet on this count.
It is sad that we’ve had two 737 MAX airframes crashing in close proximity of each other. Hopefully, Boeing would be able to quickly determine the cause of the issue with the support of FAA, NTSB and other investigating authorities soon, and address any issues or gaps quickly. Or perhaps, this is all just a bad coincidence. We don’t know. But we need to know, as quickly as possible.
What do you feel about the current situation with the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft? What would you do if you had to fly one of these?