Kulula operator grounds Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes in South Africa

Comair, which operates Kulula.com and British Airways flights locally, has grounded its Boeing 737 Max 8 plane in South Africa.

The move comes after a fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday.

Ethiopian Airlines stated there were no survivors following one of its four-month-old Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft crashing shortly after takeoff.

“Comair has decided to remove its 737 Max from its flight schedule, although neither regulatory authorities nor the manufacturer has required it to do so,” said Wrenelle Stander, executive director of Comair’s airline division.

“While Comair has done extensive preparatory work prior to the introduction of the first 737 Max into its fleet and remains confident in the inherent safety of the aircraft, it has decided temporarily not to schedule the aircraft while it consults with other operators, Boeing, and technical experts.”

“The safety and confidence of our customers and crew is always our priority.”

The company added that the Max is the “latest iteration of the most common commercial aircraft ever manufactured”.

“It is well-established around the world, particularly in the fleets of large carriers in the United States. There currently over 370 Boeing 737 Max [planes] in operation, with 47 airlines. The type operates approximately 1,500 flights a day and has accumulated over 250,000 flights in total with an excellent record of daily reliability.”

Comair has ordered eight Boeing 737 Max 8 planes – one of which was delivered in February 2019.


The Ethiopian Airlines accident on Sunday saw all 157 passengers and crew killed when the flight to Kenya went down.

The accident followed a two-month-old Boeing 737 Max 8, operated by Lion Air, crashing into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff in October 2018. All 189 on board were killed.

Poor safety procedures and the inability of pilots to gain control of a malfunctioning aircraft may have contributed to the Lion Air crash, state initial investigation reports.

Concerns have been raised by aviation experts, however, that the Boeing 737 Max 8’s “Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System” – also called the “automated anti-stall system” – was a contributor to the Lion Air crash.

The new feature detects if a plane is climbing too quickly and may stall, and points its nose down.

According to CNN, data from a Lion Air flight recorder shows that the pilots fought to override the automatic safety system, which “pulled the plane’s nose down more than two dozen times”.

Chinese authorities have already taken a strict approach on the matter and grounded all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.

Boeing response

Boeing has stood by the aircraft, a revamped version of its workhorse single-aisle jet. “We are confident in the safety of the 737 Max and in the work of the men and women who design and build it,” Boeing chief executive officer Dennis Muilenburg said in a message.

“There are still many facts to learn and work to be done,” he said. “Speculating about the cause of the accident or discussing it without all the necessary facts is not appropriate and could compromise the integrity of the investigation.”

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Kulula operator grounds Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes in South Africa