Ethiopian Airlines group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam has reaffirmed his belief in Boeing in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX crash that claimed the lives of all 157 people onboard.

The 737 MAX, operating as Ethiopian Airlines ET302, crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa on March 10. Perceived similarities between the Ethiopian accident and the fatal Lion Air 737 MAX crash in October 2018 subsequently triggered a worldwide grounding of the type.

“Let me be clear: Ethiopian Airlines believes in Boeing,” Gebremariam said in a statement issued March 25. “Despite the tragedy, Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines will continue to be linked well into the future.”

Other airlines, notably Garuda Indonesia and Lion Air, are said to be reconsidering their MAX orders following the Ethiopian accident.

Ethiopian has a long-standing relationship with Boeing, whose aircraft make up more than two thirds of its 113-strong fleet. The Addis Ababa-based airline also operates Airbus and Bombardier aircraft.

Despite his solidarity with Boeing, Gebremariam acknowledged that there are still many unanswered questions related to the 737 MAX.

“The investigation of the accident is well underway, and we will learn the truth. At this time, I do not want to speculate as to the cause. Many questions on the Boeing 737 MAX airplane remain without answers, and I pledge full and transparent cooperation to discover what went wrong,” Gebremariam said.

As a precaution, Ethiopian grounded its four remaining MAX 8s within 23 hours of the crash, based on perceived similarities with the Lion Air accident. “Within days, the plane had been grounded around the world. I fully support this. Until we have answers, putting one more life at risk is too much,” he said.

He went on to defend Ethiopian’s pilot training, saying his airline “went beyond” the computer-based differences training recommended for pilots transitioning between the Boeing 737NG and the MAX.

“After the Lion Air accident in October, our pilots who fly the Boeing 737 MAX 8 were fully trained on the service bulletin issued by Boeing and the Emergency Airworthiness Directive issued by the USA FAA. Among the seven full-flight simulators that we own and operate, two of them are for Boeing 737NG and the Boeing 737 MAX. We are the only airline in Africa, among the very few in the world, with the 737 MAX full-flight simulator. Contrary to some media reports, our pilots who fly the new model were trained on all appropriate simulators,” Gebremariam said.

Victoria Moores