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BBT March/April 2019 cover
March/April 2019

Update: UK joins Boeing 737 Max 8 ban

Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in flight

The UK has joined China, Singapore and Australia, as well as Ethiopian Airlines and several other carriers that have suspended the use of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft following the crash of a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi over the weekend.

The authority said: "The UK Civil Aviation Authority has been closely monitoring the situation, however, as we do not currently have sufficient information from the flight data recorder we have, as a precautionary measure, issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace."

The move affects Tui and Norwegian, which both operate the B737 Max 8 as part of their fleets. Both airlines have confirmed they have suspended flights using that model.

The crash in Ethiopia is the second involving the new Boeing aircraft following an October incident in which a Lion Air flight plunged into the sea in Indonesia 13 minutes after take-off. Sunday’s accident occurred just minutes after take-off, killing all 157 passengers and crew on board.

Ethiopian Airlines has a good safety track record, with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirming the carrier met international standards. Its last fatal crash was in 2010 when a B737 fell into the Mediterranean after take-off from Beirut. An investigation found the accident was most likely caused by a pilot error.

The carrier has taken the decision to ground its remaining fleet of four B737 Max 8s and Cayman Airways has also stopped using the aircraft until further notice. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has also said all Chinese airlines had suspended using the aeroplanes.

According to the CAAC, there are 96 B737 Max 8s in service with Chinese carriers including Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore has taken the decision to ban the entire Boeing 737 Max family, which includes the 7, 8, 9 and 10 versions. The move will impact on airlines flying into Changi airport – a major hub for connecting Asia to Europe and the US.

Singapore’s CAA says the suspension will affect airlines such as Silk Air, which operates six Max 8s, as well as China Southern Airlines (which grounded its Max 8s yesterday), Garuda Indonesia, Shandong Airlines and Thai Lion Air.

Experts say disruption to flight schedules into and out of Changi airport are likely, but the CAA claims it is working with airlines to minimise the impact of the ban.

Australia has joined Singapore in banning the entire B737 Max family of aircraft, though no Asutralian airlines operate the aeroplanes and only Silk Air and Fiji Airways fly the model into and out of the country.

South Korea has asked Eastar Jet to suspend its Max 8s, according to local reports.

No other airlines have announced the intention to ground their Max 8s and the US FAA has deemed the aircraft airworthy despite the fatal crashes.

Boeing said it has sent a technical team to the latest crash site to assist the Ethiopian Accident Investigation Bureau and the US National Transportation Safety Board with the investigation.

An investigation into the Lion Air accident initially focused on maintenance and training carried out by the airline in relation to a new system Boeing introduced on the Max 8 that is designed to prevent the aircraft from stalling on take-off by correcting the ‘angle of attack’ automatically.

The investigation also claims the system could have activated due to an erroneous reading from a sensor.

Boeing claims all airlines to put the aeroplanes into service received manuals detailing how pilots could override the system, which can push the aircraft’s nose down.

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