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Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX Returns to the Skies

An Ethiopian 737 MAX 8 parked in Washington. (Photo: AirlineGeeks)

On Tuesday, Ethiopian Airlines operated its first Boeing 737 MAX flight almost three years after regulators grounded the fleet globally — following two deadly accidents involving the aircraft. 

The flight was scheduled for arrival in Kenya but remained within Ethiopia due to weather surrounding the area. Passengers on board the flight included government officials and diplomats. 

While en route, acting Chief Executive Officer Esayas Woldemariam said, “We made sure everything is in order. Now we are doing a demo flight so to speak. It is after this that we are availing it to commercial aviation,” while talking to reporters about how commercial flights would resume after the demonstration, and the airline showed that the aircraft was indeed safe. 

The aircraft was originally grounded by aviation authorities globally, following the second fatal accident in March of 2019, which involved a 737 MAX aircraft operated by Ethiopian Airlines, resulting in the loss of all 157 souls on board. Five months prior to this accident, Lion Air Flight 610, crashed and killed all 189 souls on board. Both flights were operated by the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. 

“Safety is the topmost priority at Ethiopian Airlines and it guides every decision we make and all actions we take,” CEO Gebremariam said in a statement. “In line with our initially stated commitment to become among the last airlines to return the B737-Max, we have taken enough time to monitor the design modification work and the more than 20 months of rigorous recertification process and we have ensured that our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians and cabin crew are confident on the safety of the fleet.”

For the airline, the return of the aircraft comes over a year after the Federal Aviation Administration lifted the grounding order on November 19, 2020, allowing it to return to the skies in the United States on these mandatory fixes:

  • MCAS must compare data from more than one sensor and avoid relying on a single angle-of-attack sensor that’s giving faulty readings.
  • All aircraft must have a warning light that shows when two sensors are disagreeing.
  • When MCAS activates, it must do so only once, rather than activating repeatedly.
  • If MCAS is erroneously activated, flight crews must always be able to counter the movement by pulling back on the control column. 
  • Pilots must get more-rigorous training on MCAS, including time in a MAX simulator

Currently, the aircraft has been given approval in most areas of the world including Europe, Australia, Japan, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Ethiopia. However, the plane remains grounded in some countries including Russia and China, but the list continues to grow smaller as the plane proves to be safe.

Since the approval to return to operation a year ago, the MAX aircraft has amassed over 900,000 total flight hours in 349,000 commercial flights. 

Ethiopian Airlines currently has four 737 MAX aircraft in its fleet — with 25 on order.


Chase Hagl


  • Chase Hagl

    Chase Hagl grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho. His love and passion for Aviation landed him in Orem, Utah where he obtained a B.S. in Aviation Management with a minor in Business Management from Utah Valley University. Chase currently works as a flight attendant in Charleston, SC and is also the primary Inflight ASAP ERC representative for startup airline, Breeze Airways. His experience in the aviation industry spans back four years, working in areas including agriculture application, customer service, maintenance, and flight ops. In his free time, Chase enjoys road biking, astronomy, and flying.

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