More countries and airlines are grounding B-737 MAX planes, but many are keeping them in the air (STEPHEN BRASHEAR)
Paris (AFP) – A number of countries have banned Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 medium-haul workhorse jet from their airspace in response to the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed all 157 people on board, and several individual airlines have grounded their B-737 MAX 8 aircraft.
Many others are continuing to fly the aircraft pending an investigation into the crash and possible guidance from Boeing itself.
The Nairobi-bound plane was the same type as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed in October, killing 189 passengers and crew — and some officials have detected similarities between the two accidents.
There are some 350 of the 737 MAX 8 planes currently in service around the world.
– Countries banning B-737 MAX planes –
Australia on Tuesday barred Boeing 737 MAX planes from its airspace. Fiji Airways is the only 737 MAX operator affected by the Australian ban, according to Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority, as Singapore-based SilkAir’s planes were already covered by a ban imposed by the city-state.
Britain’s aviation regulator on Tuesday banned Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from the country’s airspace.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority said that “as precautionary measure” it had decided “to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace”.
Beijing Monday ordered domestic airlines to suspend operation of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, citing the two crashes.
Noting “similarities” between the two incidents, China’s Civil Aviation Administration said operation of the model would only resume after “confirming the relevant measures to effectively ensure flight safety”.
China is a hugely important market for the US aircraft company, accounting for about one-fifth of worldwide deliveries of Boeing 737 MAX models.
Indonesia said it was grounding its 11 jets of the 737 MAX 8 type.
Inspections of the aircraft would start Tuesday and the planes would remain grounded until they were cleared by safety regulators, Director General of Air Transport Polana Pramesti told reporters.
Malaysia on Tuesday banned Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft from its airspace. No Malaysian carriers currently operate the model, the aviation authority said.
The Mongolian Civil Aviation Authority said on Facebook it had ordered the state carrier MIAT Mongolian Airlines to ground the sole Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in its fleet.
Oman on Tuesday suspended takeoffs and landings by Boeing 737 MAX planes at its airports “until further notice”.
Singapore’s aviation regulator Tuesday completely banned the use of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in the country’s airspace.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said it was “temporarily suspending operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into and out of Singapore” in light of the two recent accidents.
– Airlines grounding B-737 MAX jets –
Argentina’s flagship carrier said late Monday that it had suspended the operation of its five 737 MAX 8s pending the result of investigations into the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines plane. Earlier its pilots had refused to fly the jet.
Aeromexico, which has six 737 MAX 8s in its fleet, announced it was grounding the aircraft.
Cayman Airways CEO Fabian Whorms said it would suspend flights for its two 737 MAX 8 planes “until more information is received”.
South African airline Comair said it had “decided to remove its 737 MAX from its flight schedule”.
Eastar Jet, the only South Korean airline owning B737-8 aircraft, was told by the country’s government to ground them.
Ethiopian Airlines said Monday it had grounded its Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet “until further notice”.
“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we have to decide to ground the particular fleet as an extra safety precaution,” said the state-owned carrier, Africa’s largest.
Brazil’s Gol Airlines said it was temporarily suspending its commercial operations with the plane.
Icelandair on Tuesday suspended its Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes.
Low-cost airline Norwegian Air Shuttle said on Tuesday it would suspend flights of its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft “until advised otherwise by the relevant aviation authorities”.
– Currently no ban on B-737 MAX planes –
Airline Flydubai said it was “monitoring the situation” and it was “confident in the airworthiness of our fleet”.
India’s aviation regulator said Monday that it had imposed additional “interim” safety requirements for ground engineers and crew for the aircraft, but stopped short of ordering their grounding.
Indian airline SpiceJet, which flies 13 B-737 MAX 8 planes, jumped to the defence of the plane, calling it “a highly sophisticated aircraft”.
Air Italy said it would follow all directives “to ensure the maximum level of safety and security”. In the meantime, the planes remain in the air.
Russian airline S7 said it was closely following the crash investigation and was in contact with Boeing, but had received no instructions to stop flying the 737 MAX 8.
The CEO of Turkish Airlines, which flies 11 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, said in a tweet that the carrier would fly the planes as scheduled, adding that the airline was in touch with Boeing and that passenger security was paramount.
The US Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday said it would not make any decision until it has more evidence.
“No updates so far. We continue to be involved in the accident investigation and will make decisions on any further steps based on the evidence,” FAA spokesperson Lynn Lunsford told AFP in an email.
Boeing, which has sent experts to assist in the Ethiopia probe, said safety is its “number one priority”.
“The investigation is in its early stages, but at this point, based on the information available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators,” the US manufacturer said in a statement.
Southwest Airlines, which operates 34 of the 737 MAX 8 planes, said: “We remain confident in the safety and airworthiness of our fleet of more than 750 Boeing aircraft.”
A person with knowledge of the matter told AFP that American Airlines planned to continue operating its two dozen 737 MAX 8s.
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