Samoa Airways leases 737-800NG, a “very different aircraft” from the 737 Max8


30th March 2019 Apia Samoa – Samoa Airways is close to finalising arrangements with full-service Malaysian carrier Malindo Air to lease a Boeing 737-800 Next Generation aircraft, to operate its flights between Apia, Auckland, Sydney and Brisbane.

According to aviation specialists, the Boeing 737NG range of planes may sound similar but are in fact very different aircrafts with distinctive technology from the 737 Max8 which has come under scrutiny following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 — five months after the Lion Air crash of the same type of plane in Indonesia.

Boeing 737 Next Generation (737NG) is the name given to a fleet of aircraft that began production in 1991. It includes the Boeing 737-600, Boeing 737-700, Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737-900; variations with different seating capacity.

The 737NG featured improved fuel capacity, a 25 percent larger wing capacity, and an ability to fly 900 more nautical miles than earlier 737 models. Southwest Airlines was the world’s first airline to take delivery in 1997, and by April 2012, 4,000 Boeing 737NGs had been delivered around the world.

Two decades after the debut of the 737NG, Boeing announced plans for a new model: the Boeing 737 Max 8.

There are over 350 Boeing 737 Max 8 airplanes in fleets worldwide, but a growing number of airlines and nations have decided to ground them in the wake of the second crash.

When it announced plans for the 737 Max 8 in 2011, Boeing said the new aircraft would be “the most fuel efficient, most capable airplane with the lowest operating costs in the single-aisle market.” The Boeing 737 Max 8 flew its first flight in 2017.

One important distinction from previous 737s is the Boeing 737 Max 8 has a different software system. That software is now a focus of investigators.

The Max 8 is outfitted with bigger, more fuel-efficient engines than earlier 737s, and the weight and positioning of those engines shifted the plane’s center of gravity forward, increased the potential for the nose to pitch up after takeoff. To counteract this risk, Boeing developed software known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

Max 8s come equipped with a sensor that reads the plane’s angle relative to the wind flow, prompting MCAS to automatically trigger the plane’s nose to angle downward if it gets a specific reading.

However, problems could arise if the MCAS system gets erroneous sensor readings. The system automatically pushes the plane’s nose down, potentially surprising pilots who are unfamiliar with the system and overriding their commands. This is what investigators believe happened to Lion Air Flight 610 before it crashed in October,

Samoa Airways CEO Tupuivao Seiuli Alvin Tuala has given his reassurance of the Samoa Airways newly leased aircraft stating,  “the 737-800NG is the same aircraft type that our Italian operator, NEOS used for Samoa Airways flights from November 2017.  It has a proven record and is operated by many airlines around the world”.

Samoa Airways confirms that, “Malindo Air 737-800NG aircraft is 3 years old and features 150 Economy Class seats with personal TVs, and 12 seats in Business Class with a generous 45-inch pitch, leg-rest and adjustable footrest, an 11.1-inch touchscreen inflight entertainment monitor, as well as AC and dual USB ports.”

Malindo Air operates more than 800 weekly flights across South East Asia as well as Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia where it’s a registered foreign air operator with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). The carrier is a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and successfully completed IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) certification in 2016 and 2018.

The lease replaces the existing arrangement with Italian airline NEOS which ends tomorrow on 31st March 2019.

Seiuli said they had been working hard to secure a replacement aircraft. “Our lease with NEOS couldn’t be extended and with the global grounding of the MAX 8 aircraft, there is a huge worldwide shortage of narrow-body aircraft as airlines scramble to consolidate their schedules using their existing fleets and short-term leases from other operators”, he said.

12 Business Class seats on the new plane.

Samoa’s National Carrier and Malindo Air are working closely with the civil aviation authorities of Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Samoa to secure the required safety and regulatory approvals, anticipated to come through next week.

“Safety is of paramount importance to us and until the clearances have been obtained, we have unfortunately had to cancel some of our flights in the first week of April and re-route our customers to other airlines operating into Samoa to minimise any further disruption to their travel plans”, said Seiuli.

“We apologise for the inconvenience caused and our team is contacting affected customers and our trade partners, to inform them about alternative arrangements as we transition to operating with the replacement aircraft”, added Seiuli.

More leg room and fitted screens

News Sources:

Government Press Release