IN THE WAKE OF THE ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES CRASH, AFRICA HAS SOME DECISIONS TO MAKE.

The day that Boeing made the decision to manufacture the 737 Max 8, may have appeared to be a day just like any other. The sun rose, the sun set and a new project had been birthed. A day like any other – at least on the surface. However, even the simplest seeming decisions have far reaching consequences.

I speculate that plans had been drawn up, reviewed, revised, approved and eventually the ‘top brass’ gave the entire project a go-ahead and the value chain of materials, components, equipment, systems and assembly globally, was activated. However many people from various countries across the world kicked into action to make the project a reality.

It may have been a competitive response to ‘market forces’ that were pushing the manufacturer. It may have been a visionary or purely strategic decision. Whatever the case may have been, the new metal bird was manufactured, approved by the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States of America and, according to reports, put into service in May 2017 by Malindo Air, the launch operator.

A pretty standard story, of a pretty standard product development journey.

Sadly though, the Boeing 737 MAX 8, was hit by tragedy in October 2018 and March 2019, with two fatal crashes taking place in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Crashes no one who was on board walked away from. The first crash revealed something interesting about the MAX 8 that some pilots have been reported to have said that they had neither information nor training on. It is said that the design of the aircraft incorporated larger engines, which were installed closer to the fuselage (the body) of the plane, which impacted its center of gravity and caused the aircraft to tend to tilt nose upwards during flight. To counter this, the manufacturers installed a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) which is an automated system that forces the nose of the plane down to prevent a stall. According to various online sources, pilots said that no information was provided on the system, while the manufacturer claimed otherwise. Following the crash of Lion Air, and the loss of almost 200 people’s lives, the manner in which Boeing handled the information provided to pilots on the functioning of the MCAS has been called into question with regard to how sufficient it was.

It is said that the Ethiopian Airlines flight crash demonstrated similarities to the Lion Air crash of a few months ago and in the wake of this, various countries have grounded their MAX 8 fleets and prohibited any MAX 8s to fly over their airspace. Although, some of these responses seem to be based more on ‘what will my neighboring country think of me if I don’t’ rather than an outright desire to protect human life.

The manufacturer’s response in both instances has been the kind of response one comes to expect, I suppose, from certain types of businesses: careful, neutral, safe and non-committal. Apart from heartfelt condolences and pledging its support as technical advisor to the US National Transportation Safety Board, Boeing remains steadfast in its position concerning the ‘safety’ of its aircraft. It appears to be the kind of carefully worded statement that one provides to ensure business longevity. But that’s just my opinion.

After the Lion Air crash, 189 people lay dead. Assurances were made. The world, as it does, lost focus, got distracted and moved on. Oh, I’m sure urgent consultations were made and Boeing advisors spoke with their airline contacts and made assurances and maybe even gave additional guarantees, maybe a Senior VP made appearances at key client offices. But after that, everybody seemed to have moved on.

Now this. 157 more people, gone. Just like that, bringing the total number of people now lost to the 737 MAX 8, is almost 400 of people’s family members, mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and children and siblings, dearly loved.

Meanwhile, on the same day, in West Africa, an Airbus A380 jet experienced mid-flight engine failure. Someone reports having seen a ball of flame and hearing a bang. Others report the aircraft shaking. This flight, however, returned to Abidjan, no souls lost. The West Africa AirFrance Manager was reported to have said that it is a well-known phenomenon that crew are trained for on simulators all year long to know how to respond to.

Two different flights, two different manufacturers, one Africa, the same day-The 10th of March 2019.

An engine blew out in one AF380, the plane returned to Abidjan Landed safely and all 501 passengers alive. No causalities. Date: 10th March 2019. What if this was a BOEING 737-800 Max? what could have been the outcome?

In the other flight, we are awaiting the outcome of an investigation. So what happened to the Boeing aircraft? Is there an overdependence on artificial intelligence to do what a man can and should do? Are we, as President Donald Trump said in a recent tweet, “Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better? Split second decisions are needed, and the complexity creates danger. All this for great cost and very little gain.”

A crash almost six months ago, a crash a few days ago and yet no aggressive response BY the manufacturer to take responsibility or ground the aircraft in question, but rather choosing the option to wait and see what the outcome of the investigation is. As advisors. With ‘heartfelt condolences’. Why? How many lives must be lost before specific action is taken by the manufacturer of the aircraft?

What of the governments of the world? God bless Ethiopian Airlines for their boldness in taking the decision to ground the fastest selling plane in the world. Facing inevitable great losses for their business, they determined to take the hit rather than put another person’s life at risk. And God bless the rest too, who chose people’s lives over money.

But where is the outrage from governments and people over what has taken place? Almost 400 members of our family died in less than a year in one particular model of aircraft and we appear to pander to the protection of the manufacturer more than the protection of the people?

Where is the public outcry? When did we become so battle hardened that we stopped seeing the injustice of it all. 189 died in Indonesia, but Boeing still lives on. This issue is not limited to Boeing. Nor to air travel. But it spreads its wings to encompass all business, big and small. What is the value of one life? For God, it was to send His Son to die for all, whether they chose to accept Him or not.

As for Africa and Africans, if you cannot tell yet, they don’t care about anything except their bottom line. But what are you going to do about it?

Now is the time for Africa to begin to demand a higher standard from and for itself. A higher standard from its leaders. A higher standard from its governments. A higher standard from suppliers, producers, manufacturers, retailers. NOW is the time to act truly in the interests of the people of Africa and not for profit or self-promotion. To put an end to compromise and second rate expressions and expect and embrace only the best.

The Ethiopian Airlines CEO believes that Boeing should ground all of its 737 MAX 8 jets until it has been established that they are safe to fly, and we strongly concur. Where is the rest of Africa?

And to you Boeing, you need to know that Africa cares about her people and we demand answers to the following questions:

  1. What happened to your care of utmost security and reliability in putting human lives first ahead of efficiency and technology?
  2. What happened to the sanctity of lives in your type of business? Do you care at all?
  3. Will you, as a show of good faith, issue the order to ground your 737 MAX 8s globally?
  4. How can we trust Boeing ever again? How do you expect Africa to fly the 737 MAX 8 jet after what has just happened to our airline?
  5. How will you ever compensate the orphans, widows, widowers, companies that have suffered the impact of your supposed efficient and smart aircrafts that have left people dead in less than a year? Money cannot replace life.
  6. DO YOU SEE THE PEOPLE WHOSE LIVES HAVE BEEN LOST AND THE PAIN YOUR MACHINES HAVE CAUSED US as Africa, taking away high and promising lives from over 30 nationalities, and 32 young, vibrant and promising Kenyans? Does THIS MATTER TO YOU OR IS IT JUST ANOTHER STATISTIC?
  7. It is sickening when Boeing says that 2 out of 300 planes have had an issue. The difference between life and death is less than a millisecond. How can you, Boeing use 2 aircrafts that have crashed in less than a year to claim that your number 1 priority is passenger safety?
  8. How do you expect pilots to ignore or switch off warning systems midair? Was this system that malfunctions midair sending confusing signals installed on purpose? Was the purpose to place efficiency and cost saving and artificial intelligence above human lives and their safety midair?
  9. You may come up with a narrative on PILOT training. Why if you knew this wouldn’t you set up an online portal to ensure pilots log in and update themselves and get certified on the erratic sensors of your aero planes and how to deal with these in milliseconds?
  10. What if the error you claim should be ignored and switched off is another opening for the planes to crash? You cannot leave pilots with options to experiment on your Artificial intelligence dashboards?
  11. BOEING-WHY ARE YOU GIVING PEOPLE 90% CHANCE OF SAFE ARRIVAL IN THE NAME OF EFFICIENCY AND SPEED?

We are fed up and DO NOT WANT to see our fathers, mothers, sons and daughters being used as Boeing 737 MAX 8 statistic in the name of technology and efficiency.

So while the world waits for investigation into the crash in Ethiopia, Africa will no longer accept any form of loss of lives due to whatever upgrades you make to your aircrafts.

And Africa rethinks Artificial intelligence as we grapple with the loss of our loved ones, fathers, mothers, children, husbands, wives, friends, colleagues, neighbors and the 33 nations that lost their lives.

Africa speaks.