Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 27 May 2019

Flydubai remains confident of 737 Max fleet’s airworthiness

UAE operator of Boeing jets is monitoring the situation after Ethiopian Airlines crash that led to carriers globally grounding their fleets

A Flydubai Boeing 737 Max. The carrier is confident of the aircraft's safety. Bloomberg
A Flydubai Boeing 737 Max. The carrier is confident of the aircraft's safety. Bloomberg

UAE budget airline Flydubai, the second-largest customer of Boeing's 737 Max globally, said it remains confident in the airworthiness of the aircraft after the fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane prompted some airlines to ground the best-selling aircraft.

China, Indonesia and Ethiopia said they would ground their fleets of the aircraft on Monday after Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 crashed in a field just minutes after take-off on Sunday, killing all 157 onboard. Investigators have recovered the black box with the cockpit voice recorder and digital flight data that should shed light on the second disaster in five months involving the new model.

"We are monitoring the situation and continue to be in touch with Boeing," a Flydubai spokeswoman said on Monday. "The safety of our passengers and crew is our first priority."

Flydubai is the only UAE operator of the 737 Max narrow-body jets, the newest version of Boeing's best-selling 737-family and an industry workhorse. The crash of flight ET302 after taking off from Addis Ababa prompted the African airline to ground the rest of its 737 Max jets. The Civil Aviation Administration of China was the first to order its airlines on Monday to ground all 96 of the country’s 737 Max jets in operation. Indonesia said it would temporarily ground the aircraft for inspection.

Boeing said it dispatched a team to the crash site to provide technical assistance.

“We have engaged our customers and regulators on concerns they may have - and would refer you to them to discuss their operations and decisions,” a Boeing spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “Safety is our number one priority and we are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved. The investigation is in its early stages, but at this point, based on the information available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”

Flydubai operates 11 Boeing 737 Max 8 and two Boeing 737 Max 9 and has 237 Boeing 737 Max jets on order.

The General Civil Aviation Authority, the UAE's aviation regulator, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on any directives regarding the jet.

The narrow-body plane is under scrutiny again following the second fatal crash within months involving the jet since it entered service in 2017. On October 29 last year, a Lion Air 737 Max crashed en route from the Indonesian capital Jakarta into the Java Sea killing all 189 people on board.

Similarities between the two incidents are raising questions if a flight control issue that caused the Lion Air crash be at fault.

Boeing delayed the debut of its twin-engined long-haul behemoth 777X following the Ethiopian Air crash.

The US plane maker is focused on "supporting" its airline customer and will not proceed with a planned media event on March 13 to publicly unveil its new plane in Seattle at its Everett factory.

"We will look for an opportunity to mark the new airplane with the world in the near future," the company said.

Southwest Airlines is the largest customer of Boeing 737 Max jets, followed by Flydubai, Lion Air, Gecas, Air Lease, United Airlines, Spice Jet, Gol, Ryanair and Jet Airways.

Regional airlines including Oman Air, Turkish Air and Qatar Airways, in addition to Kuwait-based lessor Alafco have placed orders for the jet, according to Boeing's website.

Boeing's share price fell nearly 10 per cent in pre-market trading to $381.70. Shares in French aerospace group Safran, the plane’s engine maker, also fell on Monday by 1.6 per cent.

Updated: March 12, 2019 07:35 AM

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