Government’s decision both wise and sensitive

The Government’s decision to defer the commissioning of Samoa Airways' new Boeing 737 MAX 9 is a wise move. 

Given the tragic developments of the past few days where an Ethiopian Airline 737 MAX 8 crashed and killed 159 people, and the global reaction it has triggered, the Government’s decision to await clearance from regional aviation regulators - including America's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – is not just sensitive, it is timely. 

We say this because safety should always be paramount. Indeed, since the news of the crash on Sunday, we’ve seen the devastation; grief and the overwhelming misery caused by the loss of that many lives. 

The feeling is not just shared by the people who are immediately connected to victims but also mourners from around the world. Here in Samoa, our people have also shared the sense of loss. 

How can we not when we see it on the news, read about it on the newspapers and listen to it on the radio? You don’t have to be directly connected to the victims to sense the sadness of such a tragedy. It’s natural that we are all affected.

Up there at Tuana’imato, the United Nations flag was flown at half mast to pay to tribute to UN officials who were apparently on the plane when it crashed. Such is the enormity of the tragedy that is being felt everywhere.

For Samoa, the Ethiopian crash has happened at a very crucial time. It is unfolding as the national carrier was just about to welcome its own Boeing 737 MAX 9 as part of its expansion plans. 

It’s important to note the 737 MAX 9 is a different aircraft from the one that crashed, which is a 737 MAX 8. The issue here is that it’s not the first 737 MAX 8 to have crashed. 

Last year, a Lion Air Flight operated on a 737 MAX 8 crashed, killing 189 people in Indonesia. Both crashes involved the same aircraft less than six months after it was released. In response, most of the world’s airlines using this type of aircraft have immediately grounded them, for good reason. 

The fact is that the two crashes shared similar features. Any airline crash is frightening, but to have two within the space of 12 months, involving the same airplane model, is definitely cause for alarm. 

It would be negligence of the highest form for any airline to continue as if its business as usual without pausing and assessing the situation. Which is why the decision by the Government in relation to their newest acquisition is a sigh of relief. 

 “The crash of the two brand new 737 MAX 8 within the span of five months has shaken the world of Aviation,” Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Fio Purcell, told this newspaper yesterday.

“And unless we have received the clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration, the New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority and Australia's Civil Aviation Safety we will not bring that aircraft to Samoa.

 “The crashes involve the 737 MAX 8 and because ours is a MAX 9, we know there are equipment similarities between the two; so in the meantime we have to take all precautions as the issues that may have affected the MAX9 around the world. 

“The safety of our customers and crew is supreme and the MOU means nothing to us when we are dealing with the safety of our people. We will deal with them accordingly and when the time comes for that. 

“If they can’t understand that, well too bad for them, we are not going to bring that plane to Samoa. This is a sad reality of aviation and this has shaken the world of aviation.” 

The MOU the Minister is referring to by the way was signed between Samoa Airways and the US-American lessor, Air Lease Corporation (ALC), last year to lease the Boeing 737 MAX 9. The aircraft was supposed to have been delivered this month.

In light of recent developments, we couldn’t agree more with the Government’s decision. In fact we applaud Minister Lautafi, Prime Minister Tuilaepa and the Government for placing the safety of our people before anything else. That’s wisdom. 

Have a fabulous Friday Samoa, God bless!

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