Nigeria’s Air Peace Airline has addressed concerns bordering on reports that it plans to take delivery of 10 Boeing 737 Max 8—an aircraft model that has witnessed two fatal crashes in five months.
On October 29, 2018, a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8, nosedived in Indonesia minutes after taking off from the capital city of Jakarta, killing all 189 people on-board.
And on March 10, 2019, another Boeing 737 Max 8 belonging to Ethiopian Airlines crashed near Addis Ababa, six minutes after take-off, killing all 157 passengers from more than 30 nations, on-board.
The plane was making its way to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.
The Boeing 737 Max 8 has been banned in several countries in recent times; and Nigerians were quite apprehensive when news filtered in that domestic airline, Air Peace, had placed an order for 10 brand new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.
An order has been placed, but aircraft yet to arrive
However, Chris Iwarah, spokesperson for Air Peace, told the BBC that the company is yet to take delivery of the aircraft.
“We placed the order since September of 2018, long before the first (Indonesian) crash. We placed a firm order for 10 Boeing 737 Max 8”, Iwarah said.
He explained that for Air Peace, “it is not a question of whether to buy or not to buy. At the moment, we are still discussing with Boeing. We are at the design and configuration stage. In the last few months, we have held different discussions with Boeing and the discussions revolved mainly around what the planes should look like. What the configuration should look like”.
Iwarah added that Air Peace is closely monitoring global concerns around the problematic aircraft and having discussions with Boeing.
“We are interested in what is happening around the plane. We are quite interested. It’s a global thing. Anything involving life…as a safety conscious organization, we take such matters very seriously. So we are interested. Whether we are concerned or anxious, I would not be able to confirm that. What I can tell you is that we are interested in what is happening and we are following developments.
“We have said in the last few days that it is premature to take a position. This is an industry that is quite sensitive. We’d follow through with the investigation before we take a position", Iwarah said.
Reminded that most countries have banned the Boeing model from their fleet, Iwarah said: “We are definitely not in the same situation as some of these countries that are saying we are suspending the use of the aircraft. At this moment, we don’t have a single Max 8 in our fleet. We are still discussing. So, our situations are quite different. We are not going to say at this moment whether we’d be seeking extra assurance. We’d love to be patient, we’d love to see the investigations concluded.
“We hope that the investigations will be sped up. Buying an aircraft is not like picking an item off the shelf. We are very hopeful that before we get to the stage of delivery or quite deep into design or all that, investigations into the accidents would have been completed”.
Nigerians mourn their dead
Two Nigerians, Professor Pius Adesanmi and Ambassador Bashua Abiodun were among those who lost their lives in the crash.
The management of Ethiopian Airlines in Nigeria has opened condolence registers at country offices in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Enugu for the victims of the flight that crashed on March 10.
General Manager of Ethiopian Airlines in Nigeria, Firihiewot Mekonnen, received the first set of visitors at the airline’s office in Lagos.
Ethiopian Airlines has also grounded all B737-8Max Airplanes in its fleet.
Ethiopian Airlines does not use the B737 Max on its Nigerian routes, the company has announced.
The company has explained that the B777, B787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 were the aircraft deployed daily to Nigeria.
Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has also assured that the Boeing 737 Max 8 is not on the fleet of any commercial airline in Nigeria.
“As we continue to mourn the ET crash in Addis, and pray for the victims, we wish to reassure Nigerians that we do not have any Boeing 737 Max on Nigeria’s register to worry about,” Sirika said.