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Boeing crash: insurers brace for impact

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Insurers could face large claims as a result of Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash. But the key question for insurers for both the airline involved and the aircraft’s builder is the same: what caused the nearly new aircraft to suddenly dive into the ground?

All 157 people on board died in the incident near Addis Ababa – the second deadly crash in six months involving Boeing’s new 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

In October Lion Air flight 610 crashed shortly after take-off in Jakarta, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Reports from aeronautical publications say the nature of the two crashes is similar.

The second crash has led many countries, including Australia, to ground the 737 MAX 8 while investigations continue. While no Australian airline has yet taken delivery of the aircraft, a small number of MAX 8s are operated by airlines that fly into this country.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has declined to follow the lead set by many countries and has refused to ground the aircraft, saying its review so far “shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft”.

The insured value of the nearly new plane is believed to be about $US50 million ($70.66 million).

Industry sources say initial insurance payments to victims’ families will be made by Ethiopian Airlines’ insurers. Willis Towers Watson is the airline’s broker and Chubb is the lead insurer. It is common practice for insurers to form consortiums to share the risks of large potential claims, with the lead insurer taking a larger proportion of the risk.

The cause of the crash is of vital importance to the Chubb-led consortium, because if it can prove the aircraft was defective it might be able to recoup its losses from Boeing’s insurers.

UK-based Global Aerospace has confirmed it is the lead insurer for Boeing, with Marsh reported to be the giant company’s insurance broker.