Govt. urged to seek expert advice on new Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft

A Member of Parliament has urged the Samoa Government to get technical advice from the New Zealand and Australian governments before commissioning Samoa Airways' new Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft. 

Salega East MP Olo Fonoti Vaai told the Samoa Observer that the crash in Ethiopia on Sunday raises a lot of questions about the safety of that aircraft model, and comes on the back of another fatal aircraft crash in October last year in Indonesia involving a similar model. 

“The Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft is the latest model of the Boeing 737 MAX and two of the 737 MAX 8 crashed in the span of five months and this calls for concern,” he said.  

A navigation engineer by profession, Olo said the Minister of Public Enterprises Lautafi Joseph Purcell and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi should consider the safety of the travelling public and make a decision in their interest. 

“The reports I have gathered so far is that the Ethiopian Airlines crash involving a Boeing 737 MAX 8 and now comparisons are being made to the October, 2018 Lion Air crash, which also involved a 737 MAX 8 (and) killing close to 400 people.

“In both cases the aircraft were brand new, the airplane that crashed near Addis Ababa was delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in November 2018, making it just four months old. Lion Air's Boeing 737 was delivered just two months before it crashed into the Java Sea last year.

“As a navigation engineer, the Government should be concerned. There is no harm in delaying the launching of our new aircraft while we seek aeronautics advice from the New Zealand Aviation and Australia Aviation. 

“We must seek expert advice on this 737 MAX 9, and for the safety of our people, this should be paramount. Not to sound extreme or paranoid, but one can never be too careful when it comes too issues that deals with lives of the public," he said.

Appealing agin to the Prime Minister and the Public Enterprise Minister, Olo said Samoa Airways' Boeing Max 9 aircraft should undergo a "thorough process" to ensure it is safe before it starts flying the airline's international routes.  

“I urge Tuilaepa and Lautafi to reconsider, and have a thorough process to assure that our new Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft is safe and secure. And it was the engines that were modified for these latest Boeing Max and we should cautiously consider the factors before launching our new aircraft. We all know the Samoa Airway have the ability to operate two aircrafts but that is not the issue here.”

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 is a modification of the Boeing 737 800, Olo added, and emphasised that any new aircraft are required to log certain flying hours before they can take on commercial flights. 

“However there is a difference between flying without the weight and having passengers on board (and) again this is a huge concern there,” he added. 

In January this year Samoa Airways and US company Air Lease Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding for the lease placement of a Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft. It is scheduled for delivery end of this month and will replace the national carrier’s existing Boeing 737-800. The airline is set to become the first airline in the South Pacific Region including New Zealand and Australia to operate a new Boeing 737 MAX 9 and is to operate between Apia, Auckland, Sydney and Brisbane.

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