N Touch
Tuesday 20 August 2019
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Better safe than sorry

BOEING was yesterday forced to reverse its position on the question of its Max 8 aircraft after US President Donald Trump issued an emergency order grounding the planes, in a move that now puts pressure on TT’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to review its own response to Sunday’s deadly crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302.

Additionally, Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) should take steps to put contingency plans in place with regard to its planned procurement of a dozen Max 8 planes in December. Until such time as the facts are fully established, CAL should err on the side of caution and spare taxpayers the expense of having to write off huge losses down the road, if it hasn’t already done so.

Trump’s emergency order and Boeing’s reversal were inevitable given the pressure that had mounted against the aircraft. Only hours earlier, Canada, Egypt, Thailand and Vietnam had joined the list of regulators who grounded the Max 8. They followed action by regulators in the European Union, the United Kingdom, China, Australia, and India. In the face of such a clear tide, putting one’s head in the sand was simply untenable.

The CAA should feel only partially satisfied with how it handled this situation. While it was correct to assert a regulator cannot act on speculation alone, perhaps now the CAA will admit that there was, in fact, mounting evidence suggesting, at the very least, a real cause for concern.

In particular, the CAA should have given more weight to the fact that the Ethiopian crash came just five months after the deadly crash of another new Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Lion Air in Indonesia. No evidence linked the crashes, but pilots on both planes reported problems moments after takeoff and asked to make emergency landings.

And Canada’s transport minister Marc Garneau yesterday said Canada’s decision was due to a review of satellite tracking data which identified similarities between the two crashes. Though not conclusive, the threshold for action was met.

While the CAA has little choice but to reverse its own position, more than this it should consider whether the process by which it assessed the situation was adequate in light of its duty to protect the safety of the public.

Meanwhile, the grounding last night threatened chaos for travellers on routes serviced by the planes. The Airports Authority will have to work closely with airlines affected to ensure passengers are taken care of. Though there is likely to be a degree of inconvenience, it’s a small price to pay for safety. Better safe than sorry.

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