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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Mar 12, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government Tuesday described as “hysteria, distortion of facts and illogical reasoning” the story by the Trinidad Express newspaper regarding the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that killed more than 150 people on Sunday.
In a statement, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said that the newspaper’s article, headlined “CAL’s plan to lease 12 jets causing panic” was erroneous insisting that the state-owned airline “is not currently flying Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft”, which is similar to the ill-fated Ethiopian plane that crashed soon after take-off, killing all 149 passengers and eight member crew.
In the article, the newspaper reported that “the move by state-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) to add a dozen Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft to its fleet has led to panic among travellers”.
The paper said “many fearful persons on social media yesterday signalled that they will be switching airlines if CAL brings in the 737 Max”.
The newspaper said it had also spoken to “several pilots” who ‘expressed concern over the impending lease, saying it is hoped CAL does in fact keep safety as a priority and not money”
But, Imbert said that the CAL’s current fleet is comprised of Boeing 737-800s and “these are among the safest airplanes in the world.
“Further, and more importantly, the first Boeing 737 Max 8 is scheduled for delivery in December 2019 and CAL therefore has ample time to make alternative arrangements to supplement its fleet if this model is found to be unsafe.
“It is not plausible therefore that persons are “panicking” about aircrafts that have not yet arrived, are not yet in service with CAL and are not due to be put into service by CAL for the next nine months,” said Imbert, who is also acting Prime Minister.
He said what is even more baffling about the concerns aired in “this alarmist story” is that American
Airlines uses the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft to service its flights in and out of Trinidad every day with hundreds of Trinbagonians on board.
“Yet The Trinidad Express seems to have little concern for the safety of those passengers who are on an aircraft that their journalist has already condemned as defective.
“This article therefore has all the characteristics of fake news, because if passengers were really panicking, then they would certainly be concerned about travelling to and from Trinidad on an airline which already has the Boeing 737 Max 8 in regular service.”
Imbert said he hopes the newspaper would in the future “fulfil its responsibility to its reading public and publish well-researched stories instead of straw man fallacies.”
CAL in an updated statement since the crash on Sunday, the accident has raised speculative concern regarding the Boeing MAX 8 aircraft.
“The airline industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world and there are rigorous processes and regulatory procedures to follow before any aircraft is brought into service. Caribbean Airlines will incorporate the procedural and training elements necessary to comply with all regulations and instructions before any new aircraft is introduced to its fleet.’
CAL said that it currently “does not have the Boeing MAX 8 aircraft as part of its fleet” and that it uses the Boeing 737-800 Next Generation aircraft.
“Caribbean Airlines stands by its commitment to put the safety of its passengers, crew and operations,” it said in the statement.
Meanwhile, Works and Transport Minister, Rohan Sinanan, speaking in the Senate on Tuesday, said the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority (CCA) is mindful of the information regarding the crash of the airline and the investigations being conducted by the relevant authorities.
“Consequently the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority cannot be engaged in speculation about the cause of the accident and will take action once it has reason to believe that safety of flights is compromised”
He told legislators that the CCA is monitoring the events and extends condolences to the families and friends of those killed.