Global ban for all B737 MAX aircraft
ONLY a day after saying there is no basis for doing so, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has now ordered the grounding of all B737 MAX models in USA airspace.
It does so as manufacturer Boeing agrees to the grounding of the entire global fleet of 371 B737 MAX aircraft, writes Thelma Etim.
The B737-8 and the B737-9, which comprise the B737 MAX series, share “nearly identical” design features and the decisions allow for further investigation “of the possibility of a shared cause” for the two fatal crashes – an Ethiopian Airlines flight this month and a Lion Air flight in October in Indonesia – involving the Boeing MAX variant, says an FAA statement.
Following the latest disaster, an Ethiopian delegation, led by the Accident Investigation Bureau, has now flown the digital flight data recorder (black box) and cockpit voice recorder of flight ET 302 to Paris, France for analysis, the airline confirms.
Eight crew members and 149 passengers of 35 different nationalities were killed when an Ethiopian Airlines B737-800MAX, registered ET- AVJ, departed at 08:38 local time on 10 March from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport but lost contact six minutes later at 08:44.
The ill-fated aircraft came down around the town of Bishoftu (formerly known as Debre Zeit), located to the south east of Addis Ababa.
The Ethiopian Airlines disaster is the second involving a B737-8 MAX aircraft. Last October 184 passengers and five crew members were killed when a B737-8 MAX operated by Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed after flight JT610 took off from Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The FAA admits that early evidence suggests there may be “some similarities between the ET302 and JT610 accidents that warrant further investigation”.
All B737 MAX aircraft operated by US airlines are included in the ban
Under the FAA’s temporary ban, pending further investigation, all B737 MAX aircraft operated by US airlines are included. “The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analysed today (13 March). This evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to FAA led to this decision,” outlines an official statement from the authority.
“The grounding will remain in effect pending further investigation, including examination of information from the [Ethiopian] aircraft’s flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders. An FAA team is in Ethiopia assisting the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as parties to the investigation of flight 302. The agency will continue to investigate,” the statement adds.
The B737 Max series variants are narrow-body, mid-range aircraft with two high-bypass turbofan engines. “The Boeing 737 MAX series are used for passenger carrying operations and are equipped with new CFM LEAP-1B engines and larger cockpit displays,” explains the FAA.
The MAX variants also share the same peculiar aerodynamic inflight characteristics that have required the introduction of MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) to compensate for nose-up (stalling) tendencies brought about by the altered location of the type’s new more efficient engines.
In a new statement, acting administrator Daniel K Elwell has determined that “an emergency exists” related to the safety in air commerce. A statement adds: “On March 13, 2019 the investigation of the ET302 crash developed new information from the wreckage concerning the aircraft’s configuration just after take-off that, taken together with newly refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft’s flight path, indicates some similarities between the ET302 and JT610 accidents that warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed.”
Prior to the FAA’s banning decision, some civil aviation authorities and airlines around the world began grounding the B737 MAX aircraft or banning it from their airspace altogether.
These include: Ireland, Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Oman, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, China, Australia, the UK, Royal Air Maroc, GOL Linhas Aereas, Aeromexico, Garuda, MIAT Mongolian Airlines, Aerolineas Argentinas, Cayman Airlines, South Africa-based Comair and Singapore-based SilkAir – all of which have taken such action.
Meanwhile, Boeing says it “continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. However, after consultation with the FAA, the NTSB and aviation authorities and its customers around the world, the company 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,” explains the American aircraft manufacturer.
“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,” says Dennis Muilenburg, president, chief executive and chairman of Boeing.
“Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be. 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.”
Below is a list, supplied by Ethiopian Airlines, of the nationalities of the passengers aboard the ill-fated aircraft:
Read more stories about the Ethiopian Airlines crash here