More countries ban Boeing 737 MAX amid safety concerns
After China, Latin America and Indonesia, several countries around the world have enforced a ban of the Boeing 737 Max within their airspace on March 12, 2019. In the evening, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that all operations of the aircraft within the European airspace were suspended.
This decision comes after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 in Addis Ababa shortly after takeoff on March 10, 2019, killing 157 people. The other crash involving the same plane model happened on October 29, 2018, when a Lion Air flight with 189 people crashed into the sea, 13 minutes into its flight. Both aircraft had been delivered to their respective airlines just a couple of months prior to the accidents.
Singapore's civil aviation authority banned the Boeing 737 MAX family from its airspace. The decision came into effect on March 12, 2019, 14:00 local time. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has announced "temporarily suspending operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into and out of Singapore in light of two fatal accidents involving Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in less than five months”.
According to the CAAS, five companies should be impacted by the ban: SilkAir, the regional subsidiary of Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) , China Southern Airlines (ZNH) , Garuda Indonesia, Shandong Airlines and Thai Lion Air. All five operate Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in and out of Singapore.
Singapore declared being “in close communication with the US Federal Aviation Administration and other aviation regulators, as well as Boeing”. As for the end of the suspension, it should come when “relevant safety information becomes available”.
Silkair reacted to the announcement in a Facebook post. “All six aircraft have been grounded in Singapore and will not be returned to service until further notice,” said the regional airline, adding that “the withdrawal from service of the 737 MAX 8 fleet will have an impact on some of the airline's flight schedules”.
The United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) still considers that proof is insufficient to immobilize the 737 MAX fleet. “If we identify a security issue, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action,” the authority stated. It has requested Boeing to make changes to the MCAS software and control system designed to prevent aircraft from stalling by April 2019.
On Twitter, the President Trump regretted that "airplanes [were] becoming far too complex to fly."
Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2019
For now the EASA did not order for the aircraft to be grounded, allowing Norwegian and TUI to continue flying them. The authority was not available for comment.
However, the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom announced in the afternoon of March 12, 2019, that as they “do not currently have sufficient information from the flight data recorder”, a precautionary ban of the aircraft within the UK’s airspace was ordered.
UPDATE 12-03-2019, 17:26: The Irish Aviation Authority temporarily suspends the operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into and out of Irish airspace, starting 15.00hrs on 12th March 2019. Reportedly, Germany has also closed its airspace for MAX operations, despite the fact that no German carrier actually operates the aricraft.
UPDATE 12-03-2019, 20:10: Shortly after the French Direction générale de l'Aviation civile, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that all flights from, to and within the European airspace operated by a Boeing 737 MAX were suspended until further notice. "The accident investigation is currently ongoing, and it is too early to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the accident," said the agency.
Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority announced they temporarily suspended the operation of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to or from Australia. “While no Australian airlines operate the Boeing 737 MAX, two foreign airlines fly these aircraft types to Australia.”
One of them being SilkAir, whose planes are already grounded by Singapore authorities, the only new airline affected is Fiji Airlines. “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,” said CASA’s CEO and Director of Aviation Safety, Shane Carmody.
In India, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) announced on March 11, 2019, it would not ground the Boeing 737 MAX for now. Instead, “interim safety measures” came as an addition to those issued following Lion Air accident. Two Indian companies use the aircraft: SpiceJet operates thirteen Boeing 737 MAX 8 and Jet Airways five.
SpiceJet decided to continue operating the aircraft, on the ground that they have “already implemented all additional precautionary measures as directed by the DGCA.” Jet Airways however said its Boeing 737 MAX were grounded and said they would remain “committed to implementing all directives or advisories that may be published.”
Oman’s Public Authority for Civil Aviation was the first authority from a Gulf country to suspend operations for Boeing 737 MAX. State-owned Oman Air operates five 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
Flydubai, which operates 11 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 2 Boeing MAX 9, said its operations would continue normally. At the time of this publication, the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority was not available for comment.
On March 12, 2019, Boeing has addressed the bans. "Safety is Boeing’s number one priority and we have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX," a statement by the company reads. "We understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets. We’ll continue to engage with them to ensure they have the information needed to have confidence in operating their fleets. The United States Federal Aviation Administration is not mandating any further action at this time, and based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators".
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