Category Archives: United Nations

Plane Perspectives: Ethiopian Flight ET302 and the Boeing 737 MAX

Air crashes are always surprises, but the news, from the Prime Minister of Ethiopia’s twitter account, that Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi on the morning of  Sunday, March 10 had gone down, was particularly shocking.

The 157 victims of the crash who held nationalities of 30 countries comprised 149 passengers and 8 crew members. Aside from Ethiopia, Kenya was the most affected nation with 32 of the deceased, while eighteen were from Canada, nine from Ethiopia, eight each from China, US and Italy, and seven each from France and the UK. Some of the victims had dual nationalities and that particular early morning flight was popular with diplomats and delegates who shuttled between meetings in the capitals of Ethiopia and Kenya.

Ethiopian Airlines ET 302 became the second fatal crash of a new Boeing 737 Max in the space of a few months, following that of Lion Air Flight 610 which crashed in Indonesia in October 2018.

Investigations have started into the cause of the crash is  with representatives from Boeing, and US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and General Electric (the engine manufacturer who also lost two employees in the crash who worked in their healthcare division) joining up to assist Ethiopian investigators.

In both crash cases, the planes were new, just a few months old, and took off for relatively short flights during which the pilots lost control of the aircraft.

The Boeing 737 is the most successful commercial aircraft in history with over 10,000 built and over 1,000 are in the air at any given minute. But the new MAX series introduced was different in terms of its design, large engines and navigation systems.  At the time of the accident, the 737 MAX-series has 74 aircraft operating in the USA and 389 worldwide, with the largest fleet users being Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada.

Boeing had committed to implement a software upgrade in the coming weeks to the MAX that was directed by the US FAA, but after the crash, Ethiopian Airlines announced the grounding of the rest of their 737 MAX fleet. Other airlines and aviation agencies in China, Indonesia and Cayman Airways, Comair (South Africa), GOL (Indonesia), Mongolia, Royal Air Maroc (Morocco) Singapore and Australia also announced the grounding or banning the use of the aircraft temporarily. The latest has been the United Kingdom.

Boeing’s shares dipped when the shares opened on Monday after the crash.

See also:

  • Here’s a rare picture of the ill-fated plane at Boeing Field, USA, prior to delivery to Ethiopian – via Airliner’s Net.
  • Airlines around the world have grounded 40% of the 737 MAX fleet but not US airlines
  • Long before the crash, some frequent flyer avoided flying on the profit-maximizing MAX aircraft over its squeezed cabins, tiny bathrooms and thin seats e.g. American Airlines has 172 seats in the cabin, including 16 first class seats and 30 extra-legroom seats — compared to the 160 seats that it has on 737-800s with the same cabin size.
  • Perspectives from another impactful plane crash a decade ago – that of KQ 507.

EDIT On Wednesday, March 13, President Donald Trump announced the grounding of all 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 models. He had informed aviation authorities and Boeing that this was in the best interests of the safety of all passengers as Boeing works on a solution.

He also extended condolences to the friends and families of victims of the Ethiopia and Indonesia crashes.

Investigations into the crash are ongoing.

Guide to Somalia and Somaliland

A guest post by anonymous*

Getting There: There are now quite a few flights that operate on the Nairobi-Mogadishu route. Some of them include Turkish Airlines (but one has to go via Istanbul), African Express, East African Airlines, Jubba Airways, Air Uganda and Ethiopian Airlines (Note this one doesn’t fly to Somalia but to Hargeisa Airport in Somaliland). A ticket to Somalia or Somaliland costs between $500 to $1,000+ depending on the season. To get to Somaliland we took Jubba Airways (though I learnt they don’t comply with IATA laws), and to Somalia, we used East African Airways which is owned by 540 aviation.

On Arrival: When one lands at the Mogadishu airport, you won’t be allowed to enter into the country if you are not being picked up or have proper documentation. Due to the security situation in Somalia, they are very careful about letting visitors enter into the country without proper host details.

But, in Somaliland one only needs to produce a letter of invitation. A visa is paid for on entry which costs around $35 although the immigration officers rarely indicate the actual amount in the receipt. When you get to the immigration area, you meet one officer who assesses your letter, then refers you to another who will collect your money and give you a receipt, then the last two officers check whether the visa fee has been paid and let you into their country. Although they have all these checks and balances, one needs to be careful as they are not as transparent as they seem.

Aden Adde airport in Mogadishu

Odd Airport Points: The airports, both in Somaliland and Somalia, did not resemble anything I would call a modern airport. – and this was probably due to the wars which both countries have struggled to recover from. While checking in at Mogadishu, I was petrified, as the airport resembled a market and there wasn’t much respect for queues.

In Somaliland, the case was different except that one is required to pay an exit fee which is more than the visa fee. One pays $10 as airport handling fees, moves to another counter (2 minutes away) to pay for a $35 ‘exit fee’, then moves on to another officer who stamps your passport & verifies the receipts, and then finally proceeds to other officers who let you access the luggage belt.

Getting Around In Somalia, we never used a taxi as we were being hosted by the UN and AMISOM which also meant that we had security as well as a car.

However, in Somaliland, we got off the plane at Berbera Airport which is 3 hours away from Hargeisa. We had pre-arranged a taxi and security as this was a requirement. Along the way, there were many roadblocks (almost 30 on the 3 hours journey), and it seemed that those that had a security chase car spent less time at the checkpoints compared to those without. The cost of each security person is $20 and one needs to pay for a car for them which is fuelled and hire about 3 others.

In Mogadishu, it’s not safe for foreigners to walk around. So if you have a workshop or event, what happens is that participants come to the hotel /guest house where you’re staying, rather than you going to them. One can only walk around the AMISOM/UN protected area which is a designated zone reserved for only the international guests.

In Somaliland, it’s relatively safe and one can walk freely in Hargeisa without having to worry. The only unsafe place in Somaliland is when moving long distances like in our case from Berbera Airport to Hargeisa Town.

Most Somali’s I met understood English and they have some English Papers. Since you are required to arrange and pay for your accommodation, and sometimes also the cost of transportation, one hardly has to spend any money unless it’s for making phone calls or buying drinks for friends. I personally never used any money.

Staying in Touch Somalia and Somaliland have some fast internet as well as cheap calls. The airport in Somaliland had Wi-Fi which was really fast, and in Somalia, I was able to access internet at my guest house and also at the UN and AMISOM offices.

Map juxtaposing Somalia and Somaliland

Where to Stay: It’s quite costly in both Somalia and Somaliland and one requires around $150 per day, and in some instances, it can be more than this. The main source of power is the generator in both Somalia and Somaliland

What to Eat:  Both Somalia and Somaliland are Islamic states, and beer is not openly sold although international guests are able to access alcohol. Spaghetti and Rice is the staple food in Somalia and Somaliland.

Shopping & Sight-Seeing: In Somalia, I was able to walk around in the AMISOM and UN guarded areas but was not able to go to Mogadishu centre or meet with many locals. It’s not quite safe yet despite the presence of the AMISOM troops. I wasn’t able to go to a shopping area as it was not safe to go there. I wouldn’t know if they have one, but I saw some shops in the airport selling some touristy stuff.

Surprises about the Trip: Somalia and Somaliland both have beautiful beaches and coastlines. Also, Somali’s love poetry and they have quite a number of poets, but one may need a translator to understand the poems. 

Map image is from Wandering Trader

* The post was prepared last week before the unfortunate events in Nairobi on Sept 21, 2013.

New UN

Kofi Annan has proposed some radical changes in order for the United Nations to be more relevant in today’s world.

  • He is calling for an expansion of the Security Council, so that it better reflects the global realities of today.
  • The Commission on Human Rights would, he proposes, be replaced by a smaller human-rights council, on which it would be harder for tyrants to get seats.
  • The UN would agree a definition of “terrorism”, which would be incorporated in a new anti-terror treaty.
  • It would also adopt clearer principles on when military force is justified.
  • Mr Annan has also called on the UN to embrace the principle that member countries have a “responsibility to protect” civilians suffering atrocities when their own government is failing to act.
  • Annan asks every developing country (Kenya) to adopt and begin to implement, by next year, a comprehensive national strategy bold enough to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015; and to mobilise all its resources behind that strategy.
  • He also asks developing countries (Kenya) to improve their governance, uphold the rule of law, combat corruption and adopt an inclusive approach to development, making space for civil society and the private sector to play their full part. The challenge of development is too big for governments to face it alone.
  • On reducing world poverty: “There is no longer any excuse for leaving well over a billion of our fellow human beings in abject misery. All that is needed is some clear decisions by the governments of both rich and poor countries.”
  • Asks every developed country to support these strategies, by increasing the amount it spends on development and debt relief, and doing whatever it can to level the playing-field for world trade. Specifically, to commit themselves, this year, to complete the Doha round of trade negotiations no later than 2006, and as a first step to give immediate duty-free and quota-free market access to all exports from the Least Developed Countries.

How will Kenya vote at a Special Summit of the General Assembly in September to approve the reform package? A 2/3 majority will be required to approve the most sweeping reform package in the history of the UN – Of course, any reforms will be dependent on the United States and without Washington’s assistance, Annan is sure to fail.

Save Kofi Annan

Since the UN has had two African SG’s in a row, it may be a while before we see another one. Granted he could have done more, in Sudan, Rwanda etc but it’s a big organization to run, and he was caught driving-while-black by policeman GWB at the UN.