BY DAVID ONJILI
The Ethiopia Airlines (ET) 302 flight that left 157 passengers and crew dead leading to all airlines operating Boeing 737 (B737) Max planes to be grounded has resulted in increased scrutiny of Boeing as it is now becoming evident that the manufacturers were negligent; already there are court cases by the victims alongside those of Lion Air seeking compensation for the loss of lives of their loved ones.Boeing had released this variant of planes to fight off the stiff competition it was receiving from Airbus especially the A320 Neo. This plane had made record orders and remains the highest selling long range plane because of its fuel efficiency.Most airlines prefer to operate the same plane model because it saves them in costs in terms of pilot and engineer training since both the pilots and engineers simply get trained on a single plane model and hence it does not affect much what variant of model they deal with. A pilot flying a B737, for example, can fly any variant of the B737 easily without needing fresh training. This explains why Kenya Airways flies an entire fleet of Boeing and Embraer planes. This is however going to change with regards to Ethiopian Airlines Group if aviation news around the globe is anything to go by. Rather than wait for the Max jets’ issue to be reviewed, ET is in advanced talks with Boeing rivals, Airbus to purchase about 20 narrow body A220 planes. ET is the continent’s biggest and most profitable carrier and this is a huge statement of intent.With a fleet of 121 Aircrafts according to their website; 13 are Airbus A350-900XWB (extra wide body) and 25 are Q400 Bombardier. The remaining are Boeing planes. Even the list of 52 airplanes on order includes 33 Boeing planes. 27 of these are the fateful B737 Max8s, which could now be replaced by Airbus. ET already operates the Q400 Bombardier and the grounding of the 4 B737 Max jets forced them to use larger planes to fly shorter distances with many stopovers. However, the A220 which has a flight range of some five hours will fit suitably into their business model of connecting to smaller markets that are relatively distant.
“It’s a good airplane… we have been studying it long enough,” Gabriel Tewolde CEO of ET is quoted as saying with regards to the A220. Like they say, one man’s meat is another’s poison, the grounding of the Max jets is a blessing to Airbus. The aviation duopoly of Airbus and Boeing continues as the two companies try to outdo each other.