Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have made the decision to ground all 737 Max aircraft globally “out of an abundance of caution” following the Ethiopian Airlines crash over the weekend.
Multiple countries had already mandated carriers suspend the use of the aircraft despite the FAA finding “no systemic performance issues” and “no basis” for grounding the aeroplanes.
While Boeing maintains it has “full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max”, “after consultation with the US FAA, the US National Transportation Safety Board and aviation authorities and its customers around the world, Boeing has determined – out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety – to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 Max aircraft”.
The FAA said new evidence and refined satellite data that exposes potential links between the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes prompted the decision to ground the aircraft.
Now the FAA has claimed the aeroplanes could be grounded until at least May while Boeing tests and installs a software update that it has been working on since the Lion Air incident.
It emerged yesterday that the Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 pilot had reported “flight control problems” to air traffic control shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa and had requested to return to the airport before the aircraft crashed.
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam has sent flight 302’s data recorders to Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) in Europe, but the initial findings might take time to come out depending on the condition of the boxes.
An investigation into the Lion Air crash involving the same Max 8 model in October found the pilots may have struggled with the anti-stall system new to the aircraft, which can force the nose of the plane down if a sensor believes the ‘angle of attack’ is too high for take-off.
It is also alleged that pilots on at least two flights using the 737 Max had filed safety concerns about the aircraft after its nose tilted down when they engaged autopilot, with one saying the flight manual is “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient”.
United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines in the US all announced they would ground their 737 Max aeroplanes following the FAA’s announcement.
US president Donald Trump supported the decision, with Canada and Brazil also joining the list of countries to temporarily suspend use of the aircraft.
Low-cost carrier Norwegian yesterday announced its intention to ‘bill’ Boeing for the cost of grounding its Max fleet.
Boeing CEO, president and chairman Dennis Muilenburg said: “On behalf of the entire Boeing team, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in these two tragic accidents.
“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution. Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building aeroplanes; and it always will be. There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”