On Sunday, March 10th, headlines across the globe notified people of the very saddening accident involving Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which ended up plummeting minutes after takeoff. The crash resulted in the deaths of all 157 on board. The accident is still under investigation, but that has not stopped people, airlines, and governments around the world to question whether the plane itself is to blame. After all, the accident took place just a few months after Lion Air Flight 610 crashed minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 passengers and crew; and just like with March’s deadly crash, the aircraft involved was a Boeing 737 MAX 8.
In fact, multiple governments and airlines have decided to ground all Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes because they do not know for certain if there is something wrong with the plane. We are living in a great time for aviation since flying is incredibly safe, so it’s no wonder that seeing two of the same planes crash under what appear to be similar circumstances would cause people to raise an eyebrow and worry about the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX 8.
By Wednesday, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Cayman Airways, Comair, Iceland Air, Ethiopian, Gol, and Royal Air Maroc have grounded all their Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. Additionally, Australia, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Oman, Singapore, South Korea, and the United Kingdom have also grounded the plane, some not allowing domestic and some not allowing any airline to operate any of those planes. Later, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency joined, grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 jets. The domino effect ended up seeing more and more countries added to the list, including Japan.
Initially, and as the investigation unfolded, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had not issue any new guidelines, and Boeing was standing by its plane. It became clear that the United States had become increasingly isolated in its decision not to ground the plane, particularly since many U.S. airlines operate the Boeing 737 Max. It wasn’t until Thursday that the United States and the FAA finally gave in and followed the steps many other countries and airlines had taken before. The FAA’s official statement mentions why the agency made its decision:
“The FAA is ordering the temporary grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory. The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today. This evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to FAA this morning, led to this decision.”
However, their inaction had already made people lose some faith on American, United, Southwest, Boeing the FAA, and the U.S.
There are no airlines in Japan that operate the Boeing 737 MAX, which could be a relief to anyone traveling to and from Japan in a Japanese carrier. However, ANA (All Nippon Airways) has an order for 20 of these airplanes with the possibility of acquiring 10 more, and the airline is reportedly not considering suspending it.
With virtually the entire world now grounding the plane, some question whether ANA should do something about its order. ANA is being cautious, of course. Japan’s largest airline is not rushing to make any drastic decisions before the investigation finishes. After all, deliveries won’t start until 2021, allowing ANA to wait and see what happens. This doesn’t mean that ANA is not paying attention. They are indeed keeping a close eye to the investigation.
However, after the amount of criticism the FAA, Boeing, and U.S. airlines received due to their stubbornness and inaction, some wonder whether Japan and ANA should put more pressure on Boeing and the FAA. A more assertive ANA could help shift the table on what has been seen as an embarrassing response from both the American corporation and the FAA.
As it stands, ANA is not losing anything at this moment. Its image as a safe airline that also provides great customer service remains intact because ANA does not currently have any Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes on its fleet, and thus the airline’s decision not to act has no immediate effect on its public image. However, it is clear that ANA will have to make a decision in the future, particularly once the investigation finishes. The fact that so many airlines and countries have grounded the plane shows the right level of precaution as governments and airlines question the plane’s safety, and if the investigation were to indicate even the slightest level of concern towards the Boeing 737 MAX 8, then ANA should cancel its order in a heartbeat.