British Airways owner confident Boeing's 737 Max will resume flights

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The boss of British Airways-owner IAG on Thursday declared he was confident Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft would be given the green light to fly again and scotched reports that European regulators were disagreeing with positive noises from the US safety watchdog.

Willie Walsh was speaking after Europe’s aviation authority reportedly told its US counterpart that it was not happy with the proposed remedies to the planes, which have been grounded worldwide since two crashed, killing 346 people.

Reports yesterday suggested European and Canadian officials were breaking away from America’s Federal Aviation Authority over the fixes, which involve tweaking the software behind the flight control system.

However, Walsh, who spoke to the European regulator Patrick Ky recently, told the Evening Standard he thought this was a misrepresentation and that the agreed alterations “should address the concerns.”

He said: “I am very comfortable this aircraft will fly again and when it does, it will be the most tested aircraft there is.”

IAG has signed a letter of intent to take 200 of the Max aircraft.

A fault in the flight control system is thought to have forced the nose of the planes downwards, defying the commands of the pilots and causing the crashes.

Walsh was speaking at the sidelines of the launch of plans to make his airline group carbon neutral by 2050. IAG will achieve this with a mixture of more fuel efficient planes and investing in projects that reduce the planet’s carbon emissions.

Air travel contributes 2% to global carbon emissions but this percentage would increase as other industries such as automotive switched to greener technologies. Air travel was unable to do so yet because electric, hybrid or hydrogen powered flights were “a long way off,” he said.

This was particularly true of long haul planes, which produce 80% of the industry’s CO2 emissions, he added.

“We don’t see an alternative to carbon based fuel for a very long time,” he said. 

Part of the reason is the weight of batteries needed to store the power. Current technology makes them extremely heavy, which in turn requires more energy to keep the plane flying. Tanks full of liquid fuel, on the other hand, get lighter during the journey as the engines burn it.

Similarly, he said it was unlikely biofuels would ever be produced in enough quantities to satisfy IAG’s needs.

While the carbon neutral initiative was not forced upon IAG by its shareholders, he said environmental issues had gone from being rarely, if ever mentioned by investors to being always on the agenda in meetings.

“A few years ago you’d have had one or two people asking but now every shareholder asks questions about it,” he said.

While he hoped other airlines would follow IAG’s lead, he said the reaction was likely to be mixed, with European companies the most enthusiastic. The US, where president Donald Trump has been vocally sceptical on causes of climate change, was less likely to follow suit.

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October 10, 2019 |
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