Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services or “Qantas” for short is one of the world’s safest airlines. It has recorded 0 fatalities since 1951 when a De Haviland Dragon crashed into a mountain in Papua New Guinea. Since then, amid some close calls (QF1 for example) Qantas has not had a fatal crash for almost 70 years. Yet they aren’t ruling purchasing the problem-plagued 737 MAX, but why?
The 737 MAX is a successor to a long line of successful narrow-body aircraft, first produced in 1967. The MAX, as all of you know, is far from perfect. It’s killed 346 people in two years of operational history, had multiple lawsuits issued against it and forced it’s CEO to stand down. But this isn’t the first jet to have major problems, the De Haviland Comet, the 1950’s jet that had 13 fatal crashes and over 400 fatalities. The thing is, this was the first commercial jetliner, it accumulated these accidents over decades of service and it’s been almost 70 years of progress. Aircraft like the 787 who have been in service since 2012 hasn’t had a single crash, they had issues but nothing like the scale of the 737 MAX’s long list of problems. But why do Qantas want to buy the problem-plagued jetliner?
Well firstly it’s about money, they want cheaper planes due to the groundings and will try to negotiate with Boeing to get some discounts. Secondly, it’s about their ageing fleet, they currently have some 75 Boeing 737-800’s in their fleet serving domestic, short-haul pacific, trans-Tasman and some Asian routes. Their oldest 738 (VH-VXA) is approaching her 19th birthday and isn’t getting any younger, the problem is Qantas wants medium-range jets soon and can’t decide whether trying to cost cut a deal to buy the MAX or bite the bullet and purchase more (they already have 109 on order for Jetstar) A320neo family. Their CEO said, “Qantas itself will put the [MAX] aircraft through its own lens to make sure we’re comfortable with it,". However this isn’t the only thing Qantas wants, it’s looking into trying to purchase a 250 seat jet (such as Boeings proposed NMA) for service on the world’s 2nd busiest air route between Sydney and Melbourne.
It’s interesting times for Qantas, who need new aircraft soon but need to decide on which. They will have to choose and I’m sure it’s not a decision they’ll make lightly.
Qantas’s oldest 737-800, VH-VXA full image credit