By Emmanuel Nduka
Ethiopian Airlines on Tuesday flew the Boeing 737 MAX for the first time since a crash nearly three years ago that killed all 157 people on board.
The crash had triggered global grounding of the 737 aircraft.
The flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya, plunged six minutes after take-off into a field southeast of the Ethiopian capital in March 2019, five months after a similar crash in Indonesia left 189 people dead.
Ethiopian Airlines which boasts as the jewel of the economy of Africa’s second-most populous country, had long said it would be the last carrier to use the single-aisle jets again.
But in a statement to AFP this week, the airline said the decision to resume 737 MAX flights came after “intense recertification” by regulators in the United States, the European Union, China and Ethiopia.
It also provided a list of 35 other carriers that have also begun operating the jet again.
Meanwhile, Tuesday’s flight was initially set to head to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, but bad weather forced a route change to a four-hour “scenic flight” in Ethiopian airspace.
The trip involved passing near Mount Zuqualla, an extinct volcano, on the way towards the Bale Mountains before returning to Addis Ababa.
On board were the airline’s and Boeing representatives, along with US Ambassador to Ethiopia, Geeta Pasi.
The victims of the ill-fated 302 crash, the worst in Ethiopia’s history, hailed from more than 30 countries, with the largest number from neighbouring Kenya.
Sequel to the crash, Boeing had reached an agreement with the victims’ families and accepted responsibility for the tragedy, according to legal documents filed in November in Chicago, where the company is headquartered.
While the proposed agreement did not mention specific sums, as jurors will be responsible for assessing amounts, Darren A. Hulst, Vice President of Marketing at Boeing who was on Tuesday’s flight, told AFP that he had no information on compensation.
“I am not involved in that part, so I probably can’t comment other than to say our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who lost their lives.
“We’ve worked tirelessly since then to make sure this aircraft is among the safest aircraft in the world,” he said.