Ethiopian Airlines is due to resume flights with the Boeing 737 MAX on Tuesday, a first since the crash that killed 157 people nearly three years ago and grounded this plane around the world.
In March 2019, Flight 302 bound for Nairobi, operated by the Ethiopian national carrier, crashed in a field southeast of the capital Addis Ababa, six minutes after takeoff, due to faulty software.
The accident triggered the worst crisis in the history of the American aircraft manufacturer, following another accident a few months later, that of a Lion Air aircraft in Indonesia in October 2018 (189 dead).
Ethiopian Airlines, the economic jewel of Africa’s second most populous country, has long said it will be the last airline to resume flights with the aircraft.
In a statement sent to AFP, the carrier said the move came after “profound re-certification” by regulators in the United States, European Union, China and Ethiopia.
A first passenger flight is due to take place on Tuesday, the company said, without giving details.
Ethiopian Airlines, which had four 737 MAXs at the time of the crash, provided a list of 35 other airlines currently using the plane.
“Our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians and crew are fully prepared to fly the B737 MAX again and we look forward to welcoming you on board.”
Waiting that long was “really commendable,” Yeshiwas Fentahun, who chaired a pilots’ association in 2019 but has since quit the carrier, told AFP.
The death of the crew, which included the company’s youngest pilot, Yared Getachew, was traumatic for all employees, he said.
“Some pilots were very close to the people who died in the accident and it’s very difficult to know if everyone has moved on,” he added. “But I think it’s a decent amount of time for most of us to turn the page on that experience.”
– “Open wound” –
Victims of Flight 302’s crash, the worst in Ethiopia’s history, hailed from more than 30 countries – including many from neighboring Kenya.
Virginie Fricaudet, president of an association of families of French victims, said Tuesday would be painful.
“What I find very difficult for us is that on this first day of the flight, there will be communications about the flight and all the VIPs who are on board, but for the families who have lost loved ones , the wound remains open”, said from Paris by telephone this woman who lost her brother in the accident, where nine French people perished.
“The crash happened three years ago now, the plane has been re-certified, the life of the 737 MAX is fine. But the families have no compensation. Nothing has happened to the families. families”.
Boeing has reached a settlement with the families of the victims and admitted responsibility for the accident, according to legal documents filed in November with a court in Chicago, where its headquarters are located.
The documents do not mention the sums but these families will be able to take steps to obtain compensation in the American courts.