STATE-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) has taken no decision as yet about whether or not it will proceed with a lease arrangement contract for 12 new Boeing Max 8 aircraft. Contacted on Wednesday, CAL officials indicated the airline had nothing to add, further to its public statement on March 19. In that statement, CAL indicated it would not and could not introduce any aircraft into its fleet that did not meet the most stringent international and domestic regulations.
CAL said if the Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircraft failed to meet any of those very stringent requirements "it will not, and in fact cannot, be added to the fleet." The airline said its international aviation consultants, attorneys, and management were closely monitoring the situation. They will take all required steps to continue to safeguard the airline, its customers and staff.
At a post Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre on March 14, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said, "CAL has been instructed by me to get the best legal advice in the world regarding these leases and also to put contingency arrangements in place with the aircraft leasing companies (for) alternative aircraft in the event that, as we get closer to December, the FAA decides there is a permanent problem with the aircraft." Imbert is the line minister for CAL.
While CAL made a US$7 million down payment for the new aircraft, Imbert said that would be contingent on the successful delivery of planes that had been deemed airworthy by the relevant authorities. CAL’s current fleet comprises 12 Boeing 737-800s. Last November, CAL had announced its plans to upgrade and replace its fleet with the Max 8 aircraft. Last month, CAL CEO Garvin Medera said the airline would put safety first and base its decisions on the relevant reports and conclusions.
In March, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) ordered a temporary grounding of Max 8 planes after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 plane in the same month. All 157 passengers and crew on board were killed in that crash which occurred six minutes after take-off.
A preliminary report into that crash said the crew followed all the right procedures but could not stop the plan from nosediving. Boeing in a statement said it would “carefully review” the report and “take any and all additional steps necessary to enhance the safety of our aircraft." The blame for the crash was placed on the plane's anti-stall software. Last month, the FAA tentatively approved a software update for the Max 8. A full report into the Ethiopian Airlines crash will be released in about one year.