By the time he was 29, Yared Getachew was the youngest captain at Ethiopian Airlines. Despite his relative youth, he had spent a decade with the carrier, eventually piloting wide-body jets that crossed continents and oceans.
Like so many of the airline’s pilots before him, Captain Getachew, who died on Sunday in the crash of Flight 302, was a graduate of the Ethiopian Airlines Aviation Academy. The competitive school, which has been training pilots since 1964, has become an intrinsic part of the company’s campaign to become Africa’s dominant carrier.
Ethiopian, a member of global group of airlines known as the Star Alliance, is a so-called code-share partner with United Airlines, Lufthansa, El Al and many other airlines. This allows Ethiopian to book passengers on other airlines’ flights and to carry their passengers. Ethiopian has aggressively established hubs in northwest and southeast sub-Saharan Africa, and has added flights to Asia and the United States.
“We consider ourselves lucky to be part of this company, especially at this time of expansion and growth,” said Captain Yeshiwas Zeggeye, a pilot for Ethiopian and the president of the Ethiopian Airline Pilots Association. “It was a time when the airline expanded more than expected, and being part of that growth is a very good feeling.”
But the carrier suffered a blow when Flight 302, bound for Nairobi, Kenya, went down shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, killing all 157 people on board. An investigation is underway to determine why the plane, a Boeing 737 Max 8, crashed into a valley southeast of the airport just minutes after takeoff.
Since the crash, Ethiopian and more than a dozen other airlines around the world have grounded the model, in part because another accident involving a Max 8, owned by Lion Air, occurred in Indonesia in October, killing 189. The Federal Aviation Administration said that the inquiry of the latest crash had just begun and that it did not have enough information to take any action.
Ethiopian Airlines’ training academy, which 4,000 students pass through each year, trains not just pilots but also cabin crew, mechanics, and sales and management professionals. It draws those being groomed for jobs at Ethiopian and students from across Africa.
Nawal Taneja, an airline business strategist and a professor emeritus at Ohio State University’s Center for Aviation Studies, said on Monday that he was impressed by what the airline was doing with the school when he toured it last year, because it allows the airline to meet its substantial need for workers. The school uses it to feed its three flight markets — domestic, trans-African and long haul.
By Christine Negroni