Ethiopia: Interview With Nigist Yerga On Current Situations
The preliminary report as you know is still an interim report. It has only collected the factual events. We are satisfied with the factual events displayed in the preliminary report which are subject to further analysis in the main investigation. We were not surprised by the result of the preliminary report because the factual events that are listed in the preliminary report were obviously known to us. Because this was the second accident next to Lion Air crash in less than five months for a brand new airplane. Although the investigation has to go through due process we have grounded our MAX fleet and China followed us, then the European Union, then Canada and finally the US.
The investigation is being conducted in the midst of the situation where more than 370 B737 MAX aircraft are grounded. So it is a bit difficult and a bit challenging investigation. Perhaps in this history of aviation this is the second investigation where the airplane which was involved in the accident is grounded globally next to the Concord crash decades ago.
To answer your question yes we are satisfied with the preliminary report and the investigation process.
Were you briefed by Boeing about the flight control software, Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), following the Lion Air crash and how did you train your pilots?
There was a service bulletin from Boeing and there was also air worthiness directive issued by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But unfortunately the issue with the MCAS was not clear. The MCAS was not clarified. The impact of the MCAS on the flight control system was not clearly explained. It was not clarified adequately. We have distributed the service bulletin and air worthiness directive to our pilots. We have briefed them and we have included it in our training manual and flight operations manual but as it was later revealed and understood by the entire global aviation community there was no adequate disclosure.
Before you ordered the B737-8 MAX aircraft you evaluated a number of aircraft including Bombardier C Series and Airbus A320 NEO. How did you decide on B737 MAX? You made a repeated order. First you ordered 20 and then 10. Do you now regret your decision?
No we do not regret our decision because it was a right one. It is still the right one. We have compared it with A320 NEO. These airplanes were replacing their predecessor planes MAX was replacing the B737 NG and A320 NEO was replacing the A320 CEO. We made a very thorough analysis on commercial terms, technical, operational and financial. The decision was not difficult because although the airplanes are by and large similar the A320 NEO and the B737 MAX both were coming with 15 percent fuel efficiency. We analysed the benefits and the additional work to be done to phase in these airplanes we found it logical to continue with the B737 since we had the B737 NG. The B737 MAX is an upgraded version of the B737 NG. When we compare it with (A320 NEO) the additional training of pilots and technicians required and spare holding for maintenance it was a natural transition from NG to MAX. That was how we chose the B737 MAX to the A320 NEO. And the MAX was a very good airplane. Still it is a very good airplane in terms of performance, economics, and maintenance. So we have no regrets.
You have now grounded four B737 MAX aircraft. So you have pulled out five aircraft including the one that crashed from operation. This may have put pressure on your flight operations. How are you replacing them? Have you leased B737-800 NGs?
Not yet because fortunately it was slack period February, March and May is a slack period in our operation. With April and May we shouldered. So we are managing with the available capacity. As you know we have more than 110 airplanes. We are swapping capacity whenever it is needed. So far we are managing with the available aircraft within our fleet. But going forward to the summer, if the MAX does not return to flight, then we may consider leasing additional airplanes.
You have 25 B737 MAX aircraft on your order book. What are you going to do with them?
Well it depends on the solution that Boeing is working on. As you might have heard Boeing is in the final stage of software upgrade and better training so it will take it to the FAA for certification and we will see if the FAA certifies it. Then we will also monitor the reaction of the global aviation regulators like the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), China and Canada aviation regulatory bodies. And then we will definitely not be the first one to return the airplane back to the air. We will definitely be the last one. Our decision follows those developments. Right now our decision is to wait and see the progress of Boeing’s solution and also the certification by the FAA. We will also see the global aviation community reaction.