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SilkAir continues to operate 737 Max 8, monitoring developments

The carrier presently uses the aircraft on 12 routes; there are 378 Max planes flying globally

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A SilkAir Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane. Chinese carriers have ordered 478 737 Maxs aircraft of different variants in total.

Singapore

SILKAIR continues to operate its Boeing 737 Max 8 flights as scheduled but is closely monitoring developments after the fatal Ethiopian Airlines jet crash on Sunday in which all 157 people on board perished.

Singapore Airlines' (SIA) regional wing, SilkAir, currently has six of the aircraft variant flying round the region, with a further 31 planes on firm order. A SilkAir spokesperson said: "We are in contact with Boeing and are closely monitoring developments. The safety of our passengers and crew is of utmost importance to SilkAir."

The Singapore-based carrier presently uses the aircraft on 12 routes, namely Bengaluru and Hyderabad in India, Kathmandu in Nepal, Cairns and Darwin in Australia, Chongqing and Wuhan in China, Hiroshima (Japan) and Asean destinations Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Phnom Penh and Phuket. However, other aircraft types are also deployed on certain of these routes. For instance, SilkAir also deploys the Airbus A320 to Phuket, in addition to the B737.

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The crash of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 flight comes on the heels of a Lion Air crash - involving the same aircraft type - near Jakarta in October last year. Following the tragedy, SilkAir had said in November that it had inspected its 737 fleet, which consisted of five 737 Max 8s and 17 B737-800 aircraft. SilkAir's pilots were also reminded at the time to review non-normal procedures for unreliable airspeed.

Aircraft leasing company BOC Aviation, which presently has five Boeing Max aircraft on lease with airline customers, told The Business Times that no communications had been issued from Boeing with regards to the crash at present. As at Dec 31, 2018, BOC had an order book of 90 of the aircraft scheduled for delivery between then and end-2021.

According to CAPA Fleet Database, there are 378 737 Max aircraft flying globally, of which 348 are of Max 8s and the balance are Max 9s. Of the 378 planes, 20 are in South-east Asia.

Boeing is sending a technical team to the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and the US National Transportation Safety Board. Shares in the US plane-maker fell in early trading on Monday as news broke of the second crash in under five months.

Meanwhile, China's aviation regulator has taken the pre-emptive step of ordering Chinese carriers to ground operations of their 96 737 MAXs - there were eight Chinese nationals on the Ethiopian flight - while Indonesia's Transportation Ministry did the same, pending air worthiness inspections.

Chinese carriers have ordered 478 737 Maxs aircraft of different variants in total. At 24 planes, China Southern has the most number of Maxs in service among the Chinese carriers, prior to the grounding.

Other airlines which have suspended operations of their 737 Max aircraft include Ethiopian Airlines, Cayman Airlines, Morocco's Royal Air Morac and Mongolian Airlines.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore did not respond to queries by press time. Shares in SIA closed at S$9.71, down three cents, on Monday.

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