Captain Yohannes HaileMariam on resuming flights with B737 MAX 8

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Ethiopian Airlines has come a long way in its 75 years, starting from a humble beginning but quickly becoming a leading African aviation group. Of course, Ethiopian continues to age beautifully. Throughout the past seven decades, the airline has established itself as adept in all facets of aviation services: technology leadership, network expansion and aviation mentoring.

The turn of this century saw the global prominence of Africa and its renaissance. Ethiopian as a Pan-African airline has continued to catalyze this development through its extensive and convenient air connectivity options to 116 international destinations in five continents across the globe. As a result, African cities are now much closer to each other and to the rest of the world than any time in history. Meanwhile, Captain Yohannes HaileMariam, Vice President for Flight Operations at Ethiopian Airlines, speaks about resuming flying B737 MAX 8. Kaleyesus Bekele of Origins Media sat down to know more about the matter, other issues as well; excerpts;

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft which operated the flight to Nairobi, Kenya crashed near the town of Bishoftu six minutes after takeoff from Bole International Airport.  The accident was occurred due to the failure of the MCAS software, which is developed by the Boeing Company.

After the 2019 flight crash, the Ethiopian Airlines decided to cease other flights of by B737 Max 8 planes.

A detail investigation was conducted along with pilots, aviation experts, technicians and regulatory agencies from across the globe about the tragic accident, said Captain Yohannes HaileMariam, Vice President for Flight Operations at Ethiopian Airlines. “After investigations and discussion, a conclusion was made to enhance the capacity of 737 MAX MCAS Software,” said Yohannes.

MCAS software basically aims to enhance the pitch stability of the airplane.

We have been working along with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States to enhance the software system and formulating law to back the 737 Max 8 into service, says Yohannes.

Even to implement that close to 1300 to 1400 extensive demonstration flights have been made for 4400 hours, according to Yohannes.

Airworthiness Directives (ADs) was formulated by the FAA. Other airlines too come up with similar and extra requirement directives than the FAA crafted to bring B737 Max 8 aeroplanes back to the sky.

Each of the nations that were using Boeing 737 has to permit the 737 Max 8 back into the service. In this aspect, Brazil’s GOL Airlines became the first carrier to operate the B737 MAX 8 following a 20 month worldwide grounding. American Airlines was the first carrier in the United States to operate the aircraft type on a regularly scheduled passenger service after regulators declared the B737 MAX 8 was once again safe to fly. Close to 36 global airlines give nods to resume flights.

Also, 187 countries that closed their airspaces to those planes previously lifted the ban.

“We have been propagating that we’ll be back in the air with B737 Max 8 lately after all nations because our first and most important priority is safety,” Yohannes assures. “We’ve to be sure that Boeing 737 Max 8 is safe prior to re-launching flights.”

Boeing 737 Max 8 flown to close to 900,000 hours for a year. 2000 hours of flights were delayed due to factors other than the cause of the 2019 crash landing, according to Yohannes.

Trainings and other precondition activities have been made to resume flights.

Upgrading the Boeing 737 Max 8 simulator, providing preparatory trainings, and enhancing the MCAS software are some of the activities to resume the flight that ceased for almost three years.

Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest and the leading Aviation Group has returned its B737 MAX back to the skies on February 1, 2022 in a non-stop flight of 4:30 hour across parts of Ethiopia.

The flight was initially planned to take place to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania from Addis Abeba. However, that flight to Tanzania was cancelled due to the bad weather condition at the destination.

“In our demonstration flight, we’ve ensured that all the systems are working without any glitch,” Yohannes told Origins Media.

“At this moment, we can assure that the plane is very safe, very efficient with a rate of almost 100%,” declares Captain Yohannes, who have 38 years of flight experience.

He said: “I have never seen a plane like B737 MAX, which has been tested, researched and found that 99.3%, almost 100% reliable as far as my experience is concerned.”

“I don’t think such reliability is found in any other aeroplanes,” he explained.

Ethiopian Airlines had first facilitated preparatory trainings and other preconditions for Mauritania Airlines to resume flights of the B737 MAX8. The Airline has now resumed the B737 Max 8 flights.

Ethiopian ordered 30 B737 MAX 8 planes from Boeing Company. It received 5 of them, and lost one in 2019 crash landing near Bishoftu town.

The veteran Captain said: “Three of these planes will resume flights after a rigorous process.”

“We’ll receive the rest 25 airplanes from Boeing Company with a special agreement,” he said, adding, “At least 6 planes will arrive this year”.

African and Middle East Airlines are too demanding similar services from Ethiopian Airlines, which will be launched very soon.

“Rigorous activities conducted and intensive trainings provided to resume those flights. We all staffs of the Ethiopian Airlines are confident of the B737 Max 8 plane at this level,” said Captain Yohannes. The system is now under control of our pilots”.

The number one priority in aviation industry is and always will be safety; safety for the passengers, the crew, and even the people on the ground. The old model aeroplanes are safe one’s in their time, the today’s modern world even have much safest aeroplanes that those planes, Yohannes speaks out. “Therefore everyone must not be frightened to fly.”

Staring from 2016, Ethiopian Airlines has become Airbus Company’s customer through the purchase of Airbus A350. “A3250 plane has been performing in an excellent way and it’s among the safest aeroplanes,” as Yohannes puts it.

Ethiopian Cargo recalibrates its operations in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic. The Airlines has adapted its operations to the evolving global demand for air cargo services following the pandemic.

The only choice when nations closed their border due to the pandemic was changing our business focus to cargo service, says Yohannes. “Twenty-five passenger airplanes were changed into cargo planes including ten B777 and three B737 cargo planes”.

Ethiopian transported Covid-19 Personal Protective Equipment’s (PPEs) and tons of the Covid-19 vaccines were also transported across the globe.

From Shanghai to Chile, Norway to Cape Town, Ethiopian Airlines has been transporting doses of Covid-19 vaccines and other materials.

Additionally, the Airlines transported more than 63 thousand stranded travelers (passengers) on boats through 50 chartered flights.

Ethiopian and the great homecoming event

The Great Homecoming Challenge was an invitation call by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) to Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopian and Ethiopian descent the diaspora to come to Ethiopia showing support and spend Ethiopian Gena Holiday.

Following the call, Ethiopian has made a 30% discount rate for the diaspora. Cargo services were also provided at a discount rate.

Yohannes said in this regard: “We assigned big planes to accommodate the homecoming Diasporas and we are successful”.

Enhancing capacity of the Aviation Academy

Ethiopian is currently implementing a 15-year strategic plan called Vision 2025 that will see it become the leading aviation group in Africa with Seven Strategic Business Units: Ethiopian International Services; Ethiopian Cargo & Logistics Services; Ethiopian Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) division of Ethiopian Services; Ethiopian Aviation Academy; Ethiopian Ground Services, and Ethiopian Express Services and Ethiopian Airports.

The aviation academy has fulfilled all the materials and requirements to training new aviation entrant students. Our facility is vast enough to train students, he said. Captain Yohannes further invited students to join the academy.

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