Kenya: After Crash, Need to Review Aircraft Safety

A Boeing 737 MAX in Toronto.

The aviation industry has to confront tough questions about the Ethiopian Airline plane crash that killed some 157 aboard yesterday. Air travellers need assurance on their safety because of worrying regularity of accidents.

Specifically, concerns have emerged over the soundness of Boeing Max 8 since the October crash of Lion Air in Indonesia, which claimed 189 lives. Then, investigations cited mechanical faults especially in regard to the plane's take-off.

A review of the accounts of what happened to the B-737-800 Max that crashed soon after it took off at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, reveals a near-similar pattern to the Indonesian tragedy. This turns the spotlight on the aircraft's mechanical steadiness, which the manufacturer ought to explain.

The frequency and similarity of proximate causes of the accidents by Boeing Max 8 are eerily worrying. In Indonesia, the plane crashed only 12 minutes after take-off; in Ethiopia, it was after six minutes. Aviation records indicate that the weather in Addis was good and visibility clear, which points to causes other than human frailties. This is the reason experts are raising an issue with the aircraft's take-off capability; the speed and stability and ability of pilots to take control of the airborne aeroplane.

We take cognisance and respect the statement by Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam not to speculate; that experts and investigative authorities should be allowed to conduct inquiries and determine the cause of the disaster. However, preliminary reports give crucial hints that cannot be ignored.

Ethiopian is one of Africa's most successful air travel operators with more than 80 destinations across five continents. It is one of the dominant airlines on Kenyan airspace. Thus, a calamity that befalls it hurts our country, region and the continent.

For Kenya, it is double tragedy. At least 32 Kenyan passengers lost lives in the tragedy -- the highest number of any of the 35 nationalities. This demonstrates that the impact of air accidents -- casualties and pain -- transcends national boundaries.

Locally, therefore, we have been thrust into mourning. We have lost top-notch professionals, business people and bureaucrats. It is incumbent on the airlines and the government to work in concert to provide support to those who lost their loved ones and help them to go through this traumatic experience with minimal anguish. The families require regular updates and counselling.

Lastly, the manufacturer of Boeing aeroplanes must be forthright and explain what is happening with its aircraft. The world needs assurance about their safety.

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