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Papua New Guinea’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has banned all airlines from flying the globally controversial B737-8 Max and B737-9 Max jets into the country.
And Air Niugini appears to have also softened its earlier adamant stand that it is going ahead with the order and delivery of four such jets (two next year and two in 2021) from Boeing.
Casa’s ban follows US President Donald Trump’s Executive Order to ground all B737 Max aircraft.
Also, the US has also given Boeing until next month to make design changes to the B737 Max – indicating that there could be faults to the aircraft.
Boeing has been in the works for months on the 737 MAX 8 fleet after a fatal crash in October in Indonesia but said the plane was airworthy and did not need to be grounded after a second crash in Ethiopia on Sunday.
Casa director Wilson Sagati said the ban, until further notice, was in the interest of public safety following the Ethiopian air tragedy.
But Minister for Civil Aviation Alfred Manase said that there were currently no Boeing 737-8 Max or 737-9 Max aircraft operated by airlines that service the PNG routes.
Manase said when the aircraft were introduced, they were treated as a “first of type” aircraft in PNG.
“Casa will ensure that a full type acceptance certification for the issue of certification of air worthiness and certification of registration is thoroughly carried out to ensure the aircraft is safe,” he added.
Manase had also requested Sagati to contact Air Niugini to get further information on their intention to buy and commission four B737-8 Max aircraft from Boeing to add to their current fleet.
Sagati said the ban was a precautionary measure needed to assure Casa that the aircraft were fully compliant with internationally recognised safety standards.
Virgin Australia, which services the Brisbane-Port Moresby route, told The National that its operations would not be affected by the ban.
A Virgin Australia spokesperson said: “We do not have any Boeing Max aircraft in our fleet currently, and therefore our operations will not be affected.”
Qantas, another international airline that flies to Port Moresby, did not respond to questions.
Air Niugini managing director Alan Milne said the grounding of the B737 Max “is sometimes all political influence”.
Milne said at the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s business breakfast yesterday that “this issue is also keeping Air Niugini in the loop, and is all about crisis management”.
“Every airline operating that aeroplane at the moment is going through exactly the same process, the risk-assessment phase, do we ground? Do we not?
“It is also keeping me in the loop because we have those aeroplanes on order but you have to decide whether it is safe to keep it flying? Do we know what it is? Have we got sufficient mitigation in place and are we comfortable with the aeroplanes?”
Milne shared his experiences about crisis management when he was with the Qantas Group in Australia.
Milne led the crisis response team during Qantas’ Airbus A380 QF 32 engine failure in Singapore, the Icelandic volcanic eruption and the grounding of the Qantas fleet during the industrial dispute in 2011.
“The Max is a little bit different, obviously, I can’t comment until the investigations are completed. However, as the airline operator, you have the operational risks, and you have to make these decisions, you have to do your own risk assessments.”
“Unfortunately, as you have seen with the Max, there is enormous political influence on decisions, the real telling thing is that the regulator that has control over the types of certificate for aeroplanes,” he said.
An Ethiopian Airlines’ B737-8 Max bound for Nairobi crashed minutes after take-off, killing all 157 aboard, sparking a global air industry crisis that raises safety questions.
Last October, a B737-8 crashed in Indonesia, also soon after take-off, killing 189 people.
As more and more civil aviation authorities and airlines in the world continue to ground the B737 Max, Boeing confirmed the Federal Aviation Administration’s announcement late Monday that it would deploy a software upgrade across the 737 MAX 8 fleet “in the coming weeks” as pressure mounted.
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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