American planemaker, Boeing, had earlier disclosed that its controversial 737-Max models are not suitable for all kinds of airports.
The disclosure was made back in 2017 while Boeing was testifying during a case brought before the US International Trade Commission.
According to the company, the Boeing 737-Max 8, 9, and 10 models, which are upgrades of Max 7, are unfit for airports with high elevation and shorter runways.
“Larger 737 variants cannot be used at what are referred to as ‘high/hot’ airports… due to a combination of short runway lengths, elevation, temperature, humidity and other environmental conditions.”
Sixteen airports in the United States of America were said to qualify as unfit for Boeing’s upgraded Max models. However, their names were not publicly-disclosed.
But it was disclosed that the Boeing 737-Max 7, which is a smaller model to the upgraded models, can takeoff in these airports.
According to an adjunct economics professor at UCLA, Jerry Nickelsburg, airports in Denver and Mexico City qualify as one of those categorised as not suitable for the upgraded Max models.
Both the Denver and Mexico City airports sit at lower elevations than Addis Ababa and Jakarta airports, from where two Max planes recently took off and crashed minutes after.
Note that high elevations require longer runways and faster speeds for successful takeoff.
Why the high altitude matters
The Boeing‘s lawyers could take advantage of this vital piece of information during lawsuit defense in court because Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport falls into the category of high altitude airports, with its elevation level of 7,657 feet. Jakarta airport also has high elevations as well.
Even though the preliminary findings of the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air did not include the airports’ altitude as part of the crash (rather pointed to Boeing’s MCAS software), it might have also contributed. This is because an airplane’s performance degrades at higher altitudes. According to long-time aviation attorney, Roger Clark:
“Even if it is BS, plaintiffs’ lawyers will focus on the quote and put that back to the company to explain it.”
However, a Boeing spokesman said that Addis Ababa can handle large airplanes because it has long runways.
The full investigative report will be completed next year. By then, all the factors that contributed to the Ethiopian Airlines crash will be known.