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Ethiopian plane crash: Fresh concerns over air safety

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THE March 10 tragic crash of an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft some minutes after take-off from Bole International Airport has raised fresh concerns over air safety. The Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft with 157 people on board was on its way to Nairobi, Kenya, before it crashed near the town of Bichoftu, 62 kilometres South-east of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

The aircraft took off at 08.38 am local time from Addis Ababa and lost contact at 08.44am. According to Ethiopian Airline’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Tewolde Gebre Mariam, the aircraft involved in the accident is less than four months old. Among the victims of the ill-fated passenger jet were two Nigerians, Professor Pius Adesanmi of Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and Ambassador Abiodun Bashua, a former Joint Special Representative for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, Sudan.

Other victims of the crash included 18 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians, eight Chinese, eight Italians, eight Americans and seven people each from France, and United Kingdom. There were also six Egyptians, five Germans, four people each from Slovakia and India, three people each from Austria, Russia, Sweden, and two people each from Spain, Isreal, Morrocco and Poland. The rest victims of flight ET 302 included one person each from Belgium, Djibouti, Indonesia, Mozambique, Norway, Rwanda and eight other countries.

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The March 10 incident is the second fatal accident involving Boeing 737 Max in less than five months. We can recall that Lion Air Flight 610 with 189 people on board crashed into the Tanjung Karawang sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia on October 29, 2018. The two incidents led to the death of 346 persons.

There is no doubt that the Ethiopian Airline is one of the biggest carriers in Africa. The Ethiopian Airline had a major crash in January 2010 when its flight from Beirut went down shortly after take-off.

As a result of the recent incident, Indonesia, China, India, Cayman Island, Ethiopia, Australia, Oman, Malaysia, Singapore, Mexico, Germany, France, Austria, Ireland, United Kingdom, and the European Union have banned the use of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in their airspace.

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Similarly, the Federal Government has also banned the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from Nigerian airspace pending the conclusion of investigations on the incident. We decry the unfortunate incident and urge the makers of the aircraft to find out the remote and immediate causes of the crash with a view to rectifying them.

We also commiserate with families that lost their loved ones in the unfortunate incident. There is the need to ensure air safety at all times. It is good that the US Department of Transportation (DoT) is reportedly investigating the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its approval of Boeing B737 Max after the recent crash of Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302 in Ethiopia.

Therefore, all stakeholders in the aviation industry must work in concert to ensure safety in the industry. It is worth stating that air travel is still the preferred means of transportation globally and anything that threatens it should worry all the stakeholders in the sector.

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Beyond banning the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from the nation’s airspace, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) must also put measures in place to ensure safety of air travellers in the country. It has become necessary to install required aviation equipment in all the nation’s airports.

Available statistics revealed that there were a total of 24 fatal commercial airline crashes in 1926 and 1927, 16 in 1928 and 51 in 1929, killing 61 people. In 2016, there were 19 fatal accidents of civil airliners of more than 14 passengers which resulted in 325 fatalities. In 2017, there were 10 fatal accidents that resulted in 44 occupant fatalities and 35 persons on the ground. Also, from 310 million passengers in 1970, air transport had grown to 3,696 million in 2016 led by 823 million in the US and 488 million in China.

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