World turns on Boeing

14 March 2019 | Transport

Namibia has joined the growing list of countries that have banned Boeing's B737 MAX 8 aircraft from landing at their airports following a crash in Ethiopia on Sunday that claimed 157 lives.

By yesterday morning, 46 countries, including Namibia, had instituted bans.

However, a commercial flight by the South African airline Comair, which operates British Airways in Southern Africa, still landed its MAX 8 aircraft at Hosea Kutako International Airport on Tuesday afternoon. It also managed to take off from the airport after special permission was apparently granted.

After the crash of the Boeing B737 aircraft operated by Ethiopian Airlines, many countries and jurisdictions grounded it over growing concerns about its safety.

It was the second accident involving this type of aircraft in less than six months. In both instances, the passenger jet crashed shortly after take-off. “In consideration of the primary role of the Namibian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to protect aircraft passengers and persons on the ground from any aviation safety and security incident, we have decided to take precautionary action to ban the arrival or departure of any Boeing B737 series aircraft from Namibian airports at this time,” said Angelina Simana, the executive director of Namibian Civil Aviation.

Simana said the decision to ban the aircraft was in reaction to the two fatal crashes of the MAX 8 since October 2018 under circumstances that were disturbingly similar, but have not yet been confirmed by accident investigations.

The first crash killed 189 people in Indonesia, while the second crash on Sunday killed 157 passengers and crew in Ethiopia.

“However, Namibia as a Contracting State to the Chicago Convention still observes the mandate under Article 10 of the aforementioned convention to grant all aircraft permission to cross Namibian territory without landing,” said Simana.

The spokesperson of the Namibian Airports Company (NAC), Dan Kamati, confirmed to Namibian Sun that Ethiopian Airlines and British Airways (Comair) operated this type of aircraft in and out of Namibia.

“The measure to suspend the operations of this type of aircraft is purely a decision made by the NCAA as the regulator of civil aviation and air traffic services for Namibia. NAC will continue to cooperate with all stakeholders on the matter for the safety and security of all passengers,” said Kamati. He said it was now up to the airlines that operated these aircraft to make all necessary arrangements to continue their service to the passengers.

Ethiopian Airlines, which has been flying to and from Namibia since 2016, on Monday grounded its Boeing B737 MAX 8 fleet.

Comair also announced at the weekend that it would remove the Boeing B737 Max 8 from its flight schedule. However despite that Comair still flew its aircraft to Namibia on Tuesday.

The airline said neither South African regulatory authorities nor the manufacturer had required it to ground the aircraft.

Comair owns the only Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane currently in operation in South Africa. The plane only started carrying passengers last week after arriving in the country at the end of last month.

Simana yesterday confirmed the landing of the Comair Boeing in Windhoek, but said it was possible that the pilots were unaware of the ban, since it usually took 24 hours for a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) to take effect. The flight data recorder from the Ethiopian wreckage will be sent overseas for analysis, but no country has been chosen, an Ethiopian Airlines spokesman has said.

In an interview with The AssociateELLANIE SMIT