Global insight

More airlines ground B737 MAX fleets after Ethiopian crash

More airlines ground B737 MAX fleets after Ethiopian crash

AUSTRALIA’s civil aviation safety authority (CASA) has temporarily suspended the operation of all B737 MAX aircraft to and from Australia, in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlinescrash, which took the lives of 149 passengers and eight crew members, writes Thelma Etim.

While no Australian airlines operate the Boeing 737 MAX, two foreign airlines fly that particular aircraft type to Australia, says an official statement from the aviation authority.

“Singapore-based SilkAir has already temporarily suspended operation of its 737 MAX aircraft, and Fiji Airways is the only other operator that will be affected by this temporary suspension,” it adds.

The Australian decision comes as Royal Air Maroc, GOL Linhas Aereas, Aeromexico, Garuda, MIAT Mongolian Airlines and Aerolineas Argentinas have all become the latest carriers to ground their MAX aircraft. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority is the latest regulator to temporarily ban the model from UK airspace.

“Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by the tragic incident in Ethiopia on Sunday. 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,” says a UK statement.

This safety directive will be in place until further notice, adds the authority.”We remain in close contact with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and industry regulators globally.”

The 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.

There were 35 different nationalities on board the ill-fated aircraft, which came down around the town of Bishoftu (formerly known as Debre Zeit), located to the south east of Addis Ababa.

Investigators, including a Boeing technical team, are now examining the digital flight data recorder (black box) and cockpit voice recorder of flight ET 302.

More airlines ground B737 MAX fleets after Ethiopian crash

Tewolde GebreMariam (above, centre), chief executive of the Ethiopian Airlines Group, visiting the site of the crash

CASA says it is working with Fiji Airlines to minimise any disruptions and is in discussion with Fiji and Singapore regulators.

Fiji Airways has two B737 MAX aircraft and other types in its fleet will be used as substitutes, adds the statement from the authority.

Shane Carmody, chief executive of Australia’s civil aviation safety authority and director of aviation safety, describes the move as being in the best interests of safety.

“This is a temporary suspension while we wait for more information to review the safety risks of continued operations of the Boeing 737 MAX to and from Australia,” Carmody insists.

“CASA regrets any inconvenience to passengers but believes it is important to always put safety first.”

The Australian authority joins a number of airlines and nations which were among the first to quickly respond by grounding their Boeing MAX models. China was the first civil aviation authority do so. Cayman Airlines, South Africa-based Comair and Singapore-based SilkAir are among the growing number to follow suit.

‘The B737 MAX is a safe airplane’

In an official statement, Fabian Whorms, president and chief executive of Cayman Airways, says the airline is currently coordinating with Boeing and with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands to monitor the investigation into Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

“While the cause of this sad loss is undetermined at this time, we stand by our commitment to putting the safety of our passengers and crew first by maintaining complete and undoubtable safe operations and, as such, we have taken the decision to suspend operations of both our new Boeing 737-8MAX aircraft, effective from Monday March 11, 2019, until more information is received.”

The Ethiopian Airlines disaster is the second to involve a B737-8 MAX aircraft. Last October 189 people were killed when a B737 -8 MAX owned by Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed.

Lion Air has reportedly suspended the delivery of four new B737 Max jets scheduled for this year.

Meanwhile, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a statement revealing that following the Lion Air flight 610 accident, the administration has completed a number of activities “to support the continued operational safety of the fleet”, including issuing an FAA emergency Airworthiness Directive on 7 November 2018.

“Following the accident of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing Model 737-8 airplane on March 10, 2019, the National Transportation Safety Board as the accredited representative, and the FAA as technical advisors, are supporting the Ethiopian Accident Investigation Bureau.”

“The FAA has dispatched personnel to support the investigative authorities in determining the circumstances of this event. All data will be closely examined during this investigation, and the FAA will take appropriate action if the data indicates the need to do so.

“External reports are drawing similarities between this accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident on October 29, 2018. However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions,” notes the statement.

‘Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the B737 MAX’

Boeing remains “deeply saddened by the loss of Lion Air Flight 610 which has weighed heavily on the entire Boeing team,” says an official company statement.

“The 737 MAX is a safe airplane that was designed, built and supported by our skilled employees who approach their work with the utmost integrity.

 “For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer.

“This includes updates to the Manoeuvrings Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training,” explains the statement.

The MCAS solution was introduced by Boeing to ‘correct’ possible increased nose-up angle of attack flight tendencies brought about by the new location on the aircraft wings of the MAX’s re-positioned more ‘efficient’ engines.

An exaggerated nose-up attitude will lead to a potentially catastrophic stall.Boeing goes on to reveal it is working with the FAA on the development, planning and certification of a software enhancement for MCAS, which will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks.

“The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabiliser trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabiliser command in order to retain elevator authority,” Boeing adds.

“The update also incorporates feedback received from our customers.The FAA says it anticipates mandating this software enhancement with an Airworthiness Directive no later than April. We have worked with the FAA in development of this software enhancement,” details the American aircraft manufacturer.

“We would like to express our deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. It is still early in the investigation, as we seek to understand the cause of the accident.”

Below is a list, supplied by Ethiopian Airlines, of the nationalities of the passengers aboard the ill-fated aircraft:

Courtesy of Ethiopian Airlines Group

 

Read more stories about the Ethiopian Airlines crash here

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