Kulula and BA’s Boeing 737 Max 8 planes – “We remain vigilant”

Comair, which operates Kulula.com and British Airways in South Africa, has stated it remains vigilant on plane safety following a fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday.

Ethiopian Airlines stated there were no survivors following one of its four-month-old Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft crashing shortly after takeoff.

157 passengers and crew were killed when the Ethiopian Airlines flight to Kenya went down.

The accident followed a two-month-old Boeing 737 Max 8, operated by Lion Air, crashing into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff in October 2018. All 189 on board were killed.

Poor safety procedures and the inability of pilots to gain control of a malfunctioning aircraft may have contributed to the Lion Air crash, state initial investigation reports.

Anti-stall system

Concerns have been raised by aviation experts that the Boeing 737 Max 8’s “Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System” – also called the “automated anti-stall system” – was a contributor to the Lion Air crash, however.

The new feature relies on equipment measuring the position of the nose of the plane, and if the plane is detected to be climbing too quickly and may stall, it points the nose down.

This system is not meant to engage when the pilot is manually flying the plane, however.

According to CNN, data from the Lion Air plane’s flight recorder shows that the pilots fought to override the automatic safety system, which “pulled the plane’s nose down more than two dozen times”.

Kulula and BA in South Africa

The Boeing 737 Max 8 has been ordered and delivered to scores of customers across the world, including Comair in South Africa.

Comair, which operates Kulula.com and British Airways flights locally, has ordered eight Boeing 737 Max 8 planes – one of which was delivered in February 2019.

Wrenelle Stander, Executive Director of Comair’s Airline Division, said their sympathies are with those affected by the heartbreaking Ethiopian Airlines tragedy.

Stander said they cannot speculate on the causes of the accident, or the Lion Air accident in October 2018, at this time.

“Comair will continue to monitor the various investigations by the relevant authorities and are in close contact with both Boeing and the SACAA. The 737 Max 8 is one of the most commonly-used aircraft in many airlines today and by November 2018, 330 737 Max 8 aircraft were in operation globally,” said Stander.

“Our highly-trained and experienced flight crew and engineers remain vigilant. If we receive information that requires us to reassess the situation, please be assured we will take appropriate action in the interests of the safety of our staff and customers. Safety remains our foremost priority and we will not compromise on the safety of our crew and our customers.”

Boeing has stated it is aware of the Ethiopian Airlines crash and is monitoring the situation.

Grounding in China

In China, authorities have taken a more strict approach and grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.

Local carriers have to ground the 96 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes that they operate, according to Chinese government statements.

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Kulula and BA’s Boeing 737 Max 8 planes – “We remain vigilant”