The safety of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft has been called into question following two recent crashes.
The first, in October 2018, was a Lion Air flight that crashed into the Java Sea – killing 189 passengers.
In March 2019, another Boeing 737 Max 8 – this time belonging to Ethiopian Airlines – also crashed, killing 157 people.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) subsequently issued a directive to stop all 737 Max 8 commercial flights until investigations into the accidents were complete.
Comair, which controls Kulula.com and the local wing of British Airways, voluntarily withdrew its Boeing 737 Max 8 from the skies on 11 March – two days before the FAA issued its directive.
Other nations, such as China, also stopped all 737 Max 8 flights on 11 March, while the US pulled its flights upon the FAA’s directive.
“The safety and confidence of our customers and crew is always our priority,” Comair told MyBroadband.
The 737 Max 8 saga, and the removal of the planes from the skies, hasn’t significantly affected Comair’s operations, however.
According to Comair, while Kulula and British Airways operate a combined 26 Boeing 737 aircraft, only one of these is a 737 Max 8.
This aircraft was a new addition to their fleet, delivered on 27 February 2019.
Comair added that a second 737 Max 8 aircraft, which was due to be delivered on 18 March, had its delivery deferred by Boeing at the request of Comair.
Despite only operating one Max 8 aircraft, Comair’s inability to use this aircraft still affects their finances.
However, Comair expects Boeing will offer compensation for the time its 737 Max 8 aircraft has remained grounded.
Comair said the extent of the financial ramifications imposed on it by the Max 8’s grounding will therefore depend on how much compensation is offered by Boeing.
Safety features as extras
A report by the New York Times suggests that Boeing sold crucial safety features on the Max 8 as extras, and these features may have been able to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
One of these safety features was an “angle of attack” indicator which makes it easier to read the information that sensors submit.
Another is a light that flashes if sensors are providing conflicting information – which helps pilots to know that information they are receiving may not be accurate.
“They’re critical, and cost almost nothing for the airlines to install,” said analyst Bjorn Fehrm.
“Boeing charges for them because it can. But they’re vital for safety.”