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Ethiopian Airlines will fly MAX by next year despite 2019 crash

written by Isabella Richards | September 3, 2021
An Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX (Australian Aviation archives)

Ethiopian Airlines has announced it plans to resume flights with the 737 MAX, despite the crash of one of its fleet in 2019 killing 157 passengers and sparking the model’s grounding worldwide.

According to Bloomberg, the deal between the planemaker and airline is confidential, but it is allegedly finalised.

Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 bound for Kenya crashed six minutes after take-off from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa in March 2019. It was the second deadly crash of a 737 MAX in less than six months, which together killed 346 passengers in total.

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The news follows a settlement that was reached in January this year with Boeing over the crash, which has since then enabled the companies to re-establish the relationship.

Ethiopian’s chief executive, Tewolde GebreMariam, said that he “can confirm that we are committed to the Boeing 737 MAX”, in an interview on Thursday.

“We have settled our case with Boeing, that’s why we are now starting the process to fly back the airplane,” GabreMariam said. “This happened in the last three months. We are happy on the settlement.”

He added the company expects the aircraft will re-enter service by the end of this year or the beginning of next, but is certain by January it will be in the skies yet again.

Last year, Ethiopian Airlines was seeking compensation for the impact of the accident on its brand, but decided not to pursue a lawsuit as Boeing remained an important “partner” with Ethiopian.

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In January, Boeing settled on a US$2.5 billion agreement to set criminal charges that it concealed vital safety information from the US government.

Boeing admitted its criminal misconduct to regulators, which also resulted in almost US$1.8 billion in financial compensation to MAX airline customers.

Ethiopian operates four MAX jets, but they have all been parked since the groundings.

Across the world, countries and airlines have been flying the jet again since November last year when the Federal Aviation Administration re-certified it.

Some nations have taken longer than others – such as China and India – over ongoing safety concerns, but the aircraft is almost back in service across the globe.

Despite the tarnished relationship between companies over the crash, both are working together on a new deal that will assist in re-enforcing the partnership, and growing Africa’s aviation industry.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed last week to position Ethiopia as an aviation hub in Africa.

Boeing and Ethiopian will work in together in four strategic areas, including industrial development, aviation training, education and leadership over three years.

GebreMariam said he has “firm conviction” in the new partnership and said Boeing is “critical” to accomplishing the carrier’s goals.

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