Nigerian airline operator, Air Peace, is currently caught in a web of global politics as it tries to expand its fleet.
Just like some of its contemporaries in the aviation industry, Air Peace had ordered for Boeing‘s 737 Max before the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines deadly crashes which killed many people. Four months since the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March, Boeing’s Max model is still not certified airworthy, and it’s all because of politics.
Boeing is still struggling to get a certification authorising its controversial Max models to return to the sky. This is despite reports of fixing the MCAS software that reportedly led to the crashing of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines planes, which killed 340 people in total.
Although global industry players were readying themselves for the fourth quarter as the date when Boeing’s banned MAX models would fly again, the Acting Director General of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Dan Elwell, recently disclosed that if necessary, it will take a year before the ban can be lifted. This, he said, is aimed at ensuring safety.
The late approval of the fixed software will likely delay the manufacturing time-frame of Air Peace’s order, which was initially billed for 2021. Already, Boeing cut its production of 737 aircraftfrom 52 per month to 42 amid the Boeing 737 MAX groundings.
Meanwhile, the delay in certification is being blamed on politics by the American Airlines Chief Executive Officer, Doug Parker, who said there have been continued delay in approving an already fixed software because the FAA doesn’t want to be the only regulator to make the critical decision.
“There is an absolute software fix that’s this close to being certified, but they’ve been saying that for a while.
“I think as much as anything now it may be politics as much as the true certification … safety issue. I don’t think the FAA wants to be alone in doing this.”
Disagreement over the lifting of ban: Several countries have their own requirement different from that of the US. The likes of Canada, Indonesia, Europe, and Brazil have stated that they have personal conditions that must be met before they can grant the all-clear for the plane’s return to their airspace. It has even been reported that China will likely be the last country to approve 737 Max for further checks; this nullifies the possibility of a consensus on requirements, thereby affecting a unilateral ban lift on the same day.
Besides the certification delay, another obstacle preventing Boeing’s 737 Max from the airspace is the indecision by FAA as to whether pilots should be required to undergo simulator training (an exercise done to learn new plane model) on the updated Max – a requirement global regulators may insist upon. This, according to media reports, could further delay the return of 737 Max.
In the meantime, Air Peace could avoid this political game by canceling its order like Indonesia’s Garuda did; pitching tent with Boeing’s competitors. But it doesn’t seem like the company is ready to do that. Its Founder and Chairman, Allen Onyema, had stated in April that the calls for it to cancel its Boeing orders are premature.
Air Peace owns about 27 aircraft. Its bid to increase its fleet size with ten additional brand new Boeing 737 MAX 800 aircraft will probably take more time than expected. Air Peace is the only Nigerian airline company that have an order for delivery of 737 Max.
Note: The Boeing 737-Max 8 plane has been credited for fuel efficiency and has been one of Boeing’s best-selling jets. More than 370 aircraft was delivered since 2017, with about 5,000 placed orders.