Boeing 737 MAX flights suspended by Australia, South Korea and Singapore after Ethiopian Airlines crash

Plane maker says it has been working to develop enhancements to flight control software to be deployed in coming weeks

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 12 March 2019 11:20
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Ethiopia plane crash wreck

Australia, South Korea and Singapore have joined a growing list of countries and airlines to ground Boeing 737 MAX aircraft after the company’s latest model suffered its second deadly crash in less than five months.

Indonesia and China also suspended their Boeing 737 MAX fleets after the Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet crashed minutes after take-off, killing all 157 people on board.

But the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continues to say it is safe to fly the planes, issuing a ”continued airworthiness notification” for the 737 MAX on Monday to assure operators

The FAA also said it expects Boeing will soon complete improvements to an automated anti-stall system suspected of contributing to the deadly crash of another Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Lion Air in October, and update training requirements and related flight crew manuals.

Boeing said it has no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies, issuing a statement to say it had been working with the FAA in the aftermath of the Lion Air crash to develop enhancements to flight control software, which will deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in coming weeks.

Investigators in Ethiopia have located two black box flight recorders that will provide information about what happened in the final moments before the plane plunged into farmland six minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa's Bole airport.

Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam said the pilot had sent out a distress call and was given the all-clear to return to the airport shortly after take-off.

Senior captain Yared Getachew had a “commendable performance” having completed more than 8,000 hours in the air, the airline said.

The plane suffered its first fatal accident in October last year, when a 737 MAX 8 operated by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea, killing all 189 passengers and crew.

There has been no information so far linking the two crashes.

Ethiopian airlines crash news: What we know so far and what investigators will be looking for

Nearly 40 per cent of the in-service fleet of 371 Boeing 737 MAX jets globally is grounded, according to industry publication Flightglobal, including 97 jets in the biggest market, China.

Ethiopian Airlines, which has four other 737 MAX 8 jets, said it was grounding them as a precaution.

Gol in Brazil temporarily suspended MAX 8 flights, as did Argentina’s state airline Aerolineas Argentinas and Mexico’s Aeromexico.

Singapore Airlines, whose SilkAir brand operates six Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, said it has temporarily withdrawn its fleet and would re-accommodate affected customers.

Other airlines that operate Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to Singapore – China Southern Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Shandong Airlines and Thai Lion Air – are also affected.

Australia said Fiji Airways and SilkAir would be affected by its temporary suspension.

Ethiopian Airlines crash

“This is the second Boeing 737 Max 8 to crash in a few months – both were in the same phase of flight and new aircraft, allowing Boeing to certify successor models through limited testing, shortcutting the typical, arduous testing process,” said Mike Slack, a licensed pilot, former Nasa engineer and aviation attorney with Slack Davis Sanger.

“There is something about the Max 8 that is defeating the best efforts of experienced pilots in emergency situations like Lion Air and Ethiopian Flight 302.”

Mr Slack said airlines operating the MAX 8 should voluntarily ground the planes, adding: “The circumstances of both MAX 8 crashes suggest a possible design problem.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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