ADDIS ABABA—Ethiopian Airlines is due to resume flying the Boeing 737 MAX plane on Tuesday, but opinions are divided on the airline’s first flight using the model since a crash nearly three years ago forced regulators to ground the fleet globally.
In March 2019 a flight to Nairobi crashed in a field six minutes after take-off from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa killing all 157 passengers and crew. The accident followed another incident five months earlier, when the same model crashed in Indonesia, killing 189 people.
The accidents exposed a problem with a system on the plane, and the model was grounded worldwide, costing Boeing some $20 billion and triggering court cases that exposed shortcomings with the certification process.
The airline will fly a demonstration flight around Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and return to Addis Ababa with journalists, diplomats, and officials onboard, the airline said.
Some relatives of those killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash were angered by the decision to resume flying the 737 MAX.
“I will never fly in a MAX and certainly if I find myself booked into a MAX, I will have to cancel that flight,” said Tom Kabau, a Kenyan lawyer who lost his 29-year-old brother George in the crash.
Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement on Jan. 22 that the decision came “after intense recertification” by multiple regulatory bodies.
Ethiopia is among the last countries to return the 737 MAX to service; it is already flying in the United States, Europe, China, Australia, Japan, and Indonesia.
“We have taken enough time to monitor the design modification work and the more than 20 months of rigorous rectification process ... our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians, cabin crew are confident of the safety of the fleet,” the airline’s CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said in a December statement.