Tragically, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX traveling from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed shortly after takeoff yesterday. 159 perished and there were no survivors. The second crash of this aircraft variant in a matter of months has left many unanswered safety questions.
In a move that is politically convenient but can be attributable solely to concern for public safety, China became the first country to ground all 737 MAX aircraft. There are about 60 737 MAX aircraft operating in China with six carriers:
- Air China
- China Eastern
- China Southern
- Hainan Airlines
- Shandong Airlines
- Shenzhen Airlines
- Xiamen Air
Per the directive of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, these aircraft are grounded while an investigation is performed concerning yesterday’s crash. More details here (you’ll need to use a translation tool if you cannot read Chinese, H/T: One Mile at a Time).
The Grand Caymans and Indonesia have followed. Quite frankly, I expect other nations to follow. If nothing else, out of an abundance of caution. The 737 MAX is certainly not the first aircraft type to experience growing pains, but the commonalities between the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crash lead to logical and reasonable concern.
Yet it does us no good to speculate here. An investigation has already begun. We should have a better indication in the coming weeks if this was a tragic coincidence, poor training, or a design flaw. Until we know, I’m going to do my best to eliminate conjecture and stick to the facts. We would all be wise to do the same.
Thus, I don’t know if China made the right call. I don’t know if a professional pilot from a well-regarded airline with 8,000 hours of flight time under his belt just goofed up. I don’t know if Boeing is hiding a latent design flaw. But we know that 159 lives were lost. We certainly know that is not a laughing matter. And we know that the truth will come out.
I’ve received emails from Award Expert clients frantic that they have a 737 MAX flight booked for upcoming trips. As tempting as it may be to resort to fear, fear will not solve the problem or help you make an informed decision if you find yourself scheduled on a 737 MAX. I’ll address that issue later. For now, let’s take a moment to remember the lives that there were lost and the family and friends that were suddenly and tragically broken.