Europe suspends flights of all Boeing 737-MAX aircraft

Europe has become the latest region to suspended flights of all Boeing 737-MAX aircraft following an accident involving Ethiopian Airlines’ flight ET302 on March 10, 2019.

Boeing 737-MAX
737 MAX  (Pic: Boeing)

The airlines’ Boeing 737-800 MAX crashed shortly after take-off en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa, resulting in the loss of 149 passengers and 8 crew members.

The suspension by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) impacts flight operations of all Boeing 737-8 MAX and 737-9 MAX aeroplanes in Europe. The same models are subject to an EASA safety directive suspending all commercial flights performed by third-country operators into, within or out of the EU.

A similar directive was issued yesterday by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, which noted: “External reports are drawing similarities between this accident and Lion Air flight 610 on 29 October 2018 involving the same type of aircraft.

“Given the similarity of the two accidents, it has been decided that as a precautionary measure that all Boeing 737-8 MAX and Boeing 737-9 MAX operations in the United Kingdom, whether by UK AOC holders or foreign AOC holders and carriers, should stop until appropriate safeguards are in place.”

The Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder(CVR) of ET302 were recovered on March 11, 2019. EASA said the investigation into the crash is ongoing, adding ‘it is too early to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the accident’.

In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ruled out taking similar precautions unless a direct correlation can be made between the accidents that downed flight ET302 in Ethiopia and Lion Air flight 610 Indonesia.

In a statement, Daniel K. Elwell, acting FAA administrator said: “The FAA continues to review extensively all available data and aggregate safety performance from operators and pilots of the Boeing 737 MAX.

“Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft. Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action.

“In the course of our urgent review of data on the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, if any issues affecting the continued airworthiness of the aircraft are identified, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”

According to Boeing, there are 5,012 orders for the single-aisle 737 MAX family of aircraft. Southwest Airlines is currently the model’s largest customer with 280 ordered, 31 delivered and 249 unfilled. The airline took delivery of its first 737-Max on August 26, 2017.