TORONTO [Peter Paul Media] — In an emailed statement, WestJet spokesman Morgan Bell expressed confidence with the Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircraft, just one day after Ethiopian Airlines flight ET602 crashed during a routine flight from Ethiopia to Kenya, killing all on board.
“WestJet remains confident in the safety of our Boeing 737 fleet including our 13 MAX-8 aircraft first introduced in 2017. We have flown five different variants of the Boeing 737 since 1996, and the fleet currently operates around 450 safe daily B737 departures,” the statement read.
“WestJet sends heartfelt condolences to those friends and family whose loved ones were on board Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. We are monitoring the situation closely and will not speculate on the cause of the incident,” the statement adds. Other airlines grounded their Boeing 737 MAX-8 fleets following the crash but many others have kept the jet in the air.
Citizens from 35 countries, including 32 from Kenya and 18 from Canada, perished in the crash, according to a passenger manifest released by the airline. Some had began their trips in Toronto and were headed to Kenya, according to Member of Parliament Rob Oliphant, who posted an update on Twitter.
The aircraft involved, registered as ET-AVJ, was a brand-new Boeing 737 MAX-8 delivered to the airline in November 2018. The crashed jet underwent its last maintenance check on February 4 and was deemed to be in peak condition. Several Canadian airlines operate the Boeing 737 MAX-8, including Air Canada, Sunwing and WestJet.
ET302 had just taken off from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa—the Ethiopian capital—en route to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi when the pilot reported an unknown issue and requested to return to Bole, which was approved.
The flight crew were unable to recover from the issue and crashed just six minutes after takeoff. The captain was identified as Yared Getachew, who had 8,000 hours of flying experience along with first officer Ahmed Mohammod Nurm, who had 200 hours of experience.
On October 29, Lion Air flight 610 crashed minutes after take-off, killing all on board. A problem with the jets angle of attack sensors caused the autopilot to point the nose downwards, which led to the crash after the flight crew was unable to recover, officials said.
Boeing later issued a service bulletin to 737 MAX-8 operators and instructed flight crews how to recover from uncommanded nose down issues, like the one that occurred on Lion Air flight 610 in October.
The cause of the latest crash is unknown but both flights do share many similarities, like the fact that both crashed just minutes after take-off shortly after reporting flight control issues.