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Ethiopian Airlines to resume 737 MAX flights after 2019 crash

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) – Ethiopian Airlines yesterday operated the Boeing 737 MAX for the first time since a crash nearly three years ago killed all 157 people on board and triggered the global grounding of the aircraft.

Flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi 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.

The twin disasters and subsequent scrutiny of the 737 MAX’s faulty flight handling system – known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) – amounted to the worst crisis in Boeing’s history.

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines, 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.

In a statement to AFP, 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.

Coffins of victims of the crashed accident of Ethiopian Airlines are gathered during the mass funeral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. PHOTO: AFP

A first passenger flight took off yesterday, the airline has said, without giving details.

The airline, which had four of the jets in its fleet at the time of the crash, provided a list of 35 other carriers that are also now flying them.

“Our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians, and cabin crew are fully prepared to take the B737 MAX back to the skies and we look forward to welcoming you on board,” its statement said.

The decision to wait as long as it did before flying the 737 MAX again was “really commendable”, said Yeshiwas Fentahun, who was president of Ethiopia’s independent pilots’ association in 2019 but is no longer with the company.