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Comair, the operator of Kulula and British Airways in South Africa, on Monday announced that it’s temporarily grounding its only Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
The company notes that while “neither regulatory authorities nor the manufacturer has required it to do so” it will nonetheless removed the plane from service.
“While Comair has done extensive preparatory work prior to the introduction of the first 737 MAX 8 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,” it continued in a press release.
The move comes after an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 on a routine flight between Addis Ababa and Nairobi on Sunday crashed six minutes after takeoff, killing 157 people.
This incident came just months after the first Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash involving a Lion Air aircraft. The plane was performing flight 610 when it nose-dived into the Java Sea just minutes after takeoff. 189 people were killed.
Additionally, Comair joined China’s Civil Aviation Administration, Cayman Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, and Indonesia’s Transport Ministry in grounding 737 MAX 8 planes operating in their countries and fleets.
Comair only just took delivery of its, and South Africa’s, first Boeing 737 MAX 8 at the end of February. The plane, registered ZS-ZCA, has already performed a number of flights between Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth since it was put into service earlier this month.
The infant plane’s last fight was BA6426 between Cape Town and Johannesburg this afternoon. It landed 15 minutes late, according to FlightRadar24.
According to the aircraft tracking service, the plane was due to perform six flights on Tuesday 12 March. It’s not yet clear if Comair has cancelled these flights or found a replacement aircraft.
While the company stated it did believe the 737 MAX 8 has an “excellent record of daily reliability” it nonetheless reiterated that “the safety and confidence of our customers and crew is always our priority”.
It’s not clear when South Africa’s lone Boeing 737 MAX 8 will return to service.
Feature image: Comair