U.S. Grounds Boeing 737 MAX Jets

A Chinese man mourns a victim of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash during a commemoration ceremony at the scene of the crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, March 13, 2019. (REUTERS)

Reuters

Updated: March 13th, 2019

U.S. grounds 737 MAX jets, Boeing shares fall again

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday said the United States would ground Boeing Co’s 737 MAX jets, following Europe and other nations that have already stopped the planes flying due to safety concerns after an Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday, the second such disaster in less than five months.

It was the second time the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has halted flights of a Boeing plane in six years. It had grounded the 787 Dreamliner due to problems with smoking batteries in 2013.

Shares of the world’s biggest plane maker, which were up earlier in the session, fell 2 percent to $370.48. The shares have fallen about 13 percent since Sunday’s crash, losing about $32 billion of market value.

Shares of Southwest Airlines Co, which has the largest fleet of 737 MAX aircraft, fell 0.4 percent.

“We’re going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition to ground all flights of the 737 MAX 8 and the 737 MAX 9 and planes associated with that line,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“The FAA is prepared to make an announcement very shortly regarding the new information and physical evidence that we have received from the site, and from other locations and through a couple of other complaints,” he said.

Boeing said in a statement that it supported the move to temporarily ground 737 MAX operations.

Meanwhile, Germany’s federal agency responsible for investigating air accidents will not analyze the black box from the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed, casting uncertainty over the process of finding out what may have caused the disaster.

“This is a new type of aircraft with a new black box, with new software. We can’t do it,” said Germout Freitag, a spokesman for Germany’s Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU).

The move leaves unclear the destination of the black box, which may yield vital details of what caused the plane to plunge to the ground, killing 157 people.

Canada also grounded 737 MAX jets on Wednesday, saying satellite data suggested similarities to a previous crash involving the same plane model.

Countries around the world had already grounded the 737 MAX jets or banned them from flying over their airspace since the Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed soon after taking off from Addis Ababa.

The still-unexplained crash followed another involving a Boeing 737 MAX in Indonesia five months ago that killed 189 people. Although there is no proof of any link, the twin disasters have spooked passengers.

Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau told a news conference that Ottawa would stop 737 MAX 8 and 9 jets from leaving, arriving or flying over Canada.

He said satellite data suggested similarities between the flight profiles of the Ethiopian jet and that of a Lion Air plane of the same type that crashed in Indonesia last year. Both planes crashed shortly after takeoff.

Air Canada and rival WestJet Airlines operate a total of 37 Boeing 737 MAX jets.

Boeing has said it has full confidence in the 737 MAX – a model that has 371 jets in operation around the world.

Ethiopian Airlines spokesman Asrat Begashaw said it was still unclear what happened on Sunday, but its pilot had reported control issues – as opposed to external factors such as birds.

“The pilot reported flight control problems and requested to turn back. In fact he was allowed to turn back,” he said.


Canada Joins Much of World in Banning Boeing Jet Involved in Ethiopia Crash (AP)


Relatives react at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Wednesday, March 13, 2019. The black box from the Boeing jet that crashed will be sent overseas for analysis but no country has been chosen yet, an Ethiopian Airlines spokesman said Wednesday, as much of the world grounded or barred the plane model and grieving families arrived at the disaster site. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

The Associated Press

By ELIAS MESERET and ROB GILLIES

Updated: March 13th, 2019

Canada grounds Boeing 737 Max 8s after Ethiopia crash

HEJERE, Ethiopia (AP) — Canada joined much of the world in barring the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet from its airspace on Wednesday, saying satellite tracking data shows possible but unproven similarities between the Ethiopian Airliner crash that killed 157 people and a previous crash involving the model five months ago. The decision left the U.S. as one of the few remaining countries to allow the planes to keep flying.

Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said a comparison of vertical fluctuations found a “similar profile” to the Lion Air crash that killed 187 people in October.

Garneau emphasized that the data is not conclusive but crossed a threshold that prompted Canada to bar the Max 8. He said the new information indicated that the Ethiopian Airliner jet’s automatic system kicked in to force the nose of the aircraft down after computer software determined it was too high. He said that in the case of the Lion Air crash off Indonesia, the pilot fought against computer software that wanted to drop the nose of the plane.

“So if we look at the profile, there are vertical fluctuations, in the vertical profile of the aircraft and there were similarities in what we saw,” Garneau said. “But I would repeat once again. This is not the proof that is the same root problem. It could be something else.”

Canada lost 18 of its citizens in Sunday’s crash, the second highest number after Kenya. A Canadian family of six were among the dead.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Airlines said Wednesday that flight recorders from the jet that crashed will be sent abroad for analysis, but it was unclear where. Some aviation experts have warned that finding answers in the crash could take months.

Boeing has said it has no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies and does not intend to issue new recommendations about the aircraft to customers. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg spoke with President Donald Trump and reiterated that the 737 Max 8 is safe, the company said.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has backed the jet’s airworthiness and said it was reviewing all available data.

“Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft,” acting FAA Administrator Daniel K. Elwell said in a statement.

The agency had no response to Canada’s decision, saying it doesn’t comment “on actions that other civil aviation organizations take.”

While aviation experts warn against drawing conclusions until more information emerges from the investigation, more than 40 countries — including the entire European Union — have suspended flights by the Max 8 or barred it from their airspace. China also ordered its airlines to ground the planes — they had 96 Max 8 jets in service, more than one-fourth of the approximately 370 Max jets in circulation.

The list of countries continued to grow Wednesday. Lebanon and Kosovo barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from their airspace, and Norwegian Air Shuttles said it would seek compensation from Boeing after grounding its fleet. Egypt banned the operation of the aircraft. Thailand ordered budget airline Thai Lion Air to suspend flying the planes for risk assessments. Lion Air confirmed reports it has put on hold the scheduled delivery of four of the jets.

Ethiopian Airlines, widely seen as Africa’s best-managed airline, grounded its remaining four models.

And airline pilots on at least two U.S. flights have reported that an automated system seemed to cause their planes to tilt down suddenly.

Ethiopia was searching for another country to take the black box from Sunday’s plane crash for analysis.

Germout Freitag, a spokesman for Germany’s Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation, said that agency declined a request from Ethiopia to analyze the box because it lacked the software needed.

A spokesman for Ethiopian Airlines, Asrat Begashaw, said the airline has “a range of options” for the data and voice recorders of the flight’s last moments.

“What we can say is we don’t have the capability to probe it here in Ethiopia,” he said, adding that it would be sent to a European country that he did not identify. An airline official has said one of the recorders was partially damaged.

Boeing’s technical team joined U.S., Israeli, Kenyan and other aviation experts in the investigation led by Ethiopian authorities.

An Ethiopian pilot who saw the crash site minutes after the disaster told AP that the plane appeared to have “slid directly into the ground.”

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said their pilots had received special training.

“In addition to the basic trainings given for 737 aircraft types, an additional training was given for the Max version,” Tewolde told state news reporters.

“After the Lion Air crash, questions were raised, so Boeing sent further instructions that it said pilots should know. Those relate to the specific behavior of this specific type of aircraft. As a result, training was given by Boeing, and our pilots have taken it and put it into our manuals,” he said.

Tewolde said he is confident the “investigation will reveal that the crash is not related to Ethiopian Airlines’ safety record.”

Forensic DNA work for identifications of the remains recovered so far has not yet begun, Asrat said. The dead came from 35 countries.

More devastated relatives of victims arrived at the crash site Wednesday, some supported by loved ones and wailing.

Others mourned in private. Dawit Gebremichael sat with a photograph of his only sister, Sara, a flight attendant on the plane. She left three children.

“It is customary for Ethiopians to have a body and a proper burial,” he told the AP. “But we don’t have the body here, and we don’t expect anything now.”

___

Gillies reported from Toronto. AP writer Yidnek Kirubel contributed from Hejere, Ethiopia.


Related:
‘Black Box’ Recovered in Ethiopian Airlines Plane Crash
Ethiopia Mourns Crash Victims as Investigators Seek Answers (AP UPDATE)
Ethiopia grounds Boeing aircraft involved in devastating crash that killed all aboard (Washington Post)
Passengers Who Missed Doomed Ethiopia Flight ‘lucky’ to be Alive (The New York Post)
No Survivors in Ethiopian Airlines Crash En Route to Kenya (AP)

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