Ethiopian Airlines and Indonesia’s Lion Air are set to resume flights with the Boeing 737MAX jet for the first time since two deadly crashes involving the aircraft type. Regulators around the world grounded the aircraft over safety fears with the 737MAX but it has now been more than a year since the aircraft was cleared to return to the skies by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Lion Air flight JT610 crashed into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff on October 29, 2018. All 189 passengers and crew onboard the roughly two-month-old Boeing 737MAX8 were killed in the tragedy.
Airlines continued to operate their 737MAX crashes as an investigation into the Lion Air accident got underway. Less than 6-months later, on March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed just six after takeoff from Addis Ababa International Airport. All 157 passengers and crew were killed.
Within days, aviation regulators, including the FAA, ordered all Boeing 737MAX jets to be grounded while investigators tried to work out how two brand new planes had crashed. At the time, nearly 400 MAX aircraft were in service with 59 airlines around the world.
Investigators eventually determined that a new computer system introduced by Boeing during the development of the 737MAX and designed to make the plane safer was likely to blame for both accidents.
The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) system was meant to enhance the pitch stability of the MAX so that it feels and flies like older versions of the 737. Boeing originally designed MCAS with the ability to make multiple inputs with data from just one sensor.
In both accidents, a blocked ‘angle of attack’ sensor fed incorrect data into MCAS. To make matters worse, Boeing failed to tell pilots about the new system.
Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam says that following extensive changes made to MCAS and signed off by the FAA that the 737MAX is now safe “beyond reasonable doubt”. The airline confirmed on Monday that the aircraft would start flying with the airline again in February 2022.
On Tuesday, Indonesia said it had finally lifted its ban on 737MAX flights more than three years after the fatal Lion Air crash. The regulator said the ban would be lifted immediately but Lion Air did not immediately say it planned to resume MAX flights.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.