UPDATE: On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would also ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 airliners, "effective immediately." The President cited "new information" for the change in position by the United States and the FAA. The President also included the Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft in the grounding order. He said that any planes in flight at the time would be allowed to arrive and land at their destinations, but from that point forward they would remain on the ground until further notice.
At airports around much of the world, the popular Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner has been grounded. The decision follows a tragic crash that occurred about six minutes after takeoff in Ethiopia on Sunday. The crash, in which the lives of 157 passengers were lost, was the second deadly accident involving that model jet in just five months. Two other U.S. pilots have reported issues with the Max 8 as well. They say an automated system caused their planes to tilt downward suddenly while in flight.
Aviation experts warned against drawing conclusions based on this crash and the one that occurred in Indonesia in October. They say more information should be gathered before determining that the Boeing jet is unsafe. Nonetheless, the entire European Union as well as many Asian and Middle Eastern governments have either grounded the plane or banned it from their airspace. The United States is one of the few remaining operators of the Boeing 737 Max 8.
The onboard flight data recorders were collected from Sunday’s crash site in Ethiopia. Those are being sent abroad for evaluation. One of those recorders was reportedly damaged, but the extent of the damage was not yet known. Some aviation experts say it could take months to perform a full investigation.
Mechanical performance, pilot performance, and weather conditions all play their parts in the safe operation of an aircraft.
The U.S.-based Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg spoke with President Donald Trump. He reiterated that the 737 Max 8 is mechanically safe, the company said. Boeing says it has no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies. It does not intend to issue new recommendations about the aircraft to customers. At present, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) agrees.
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam says pilots had received special training on the Max 8 after the Indonesian crash. He believes his pilots were equipped to operate the jet without concern for error. He says he is confident the investigation will show that “the crash is not related to Ethiopian Airlines’ safety record.” The airline is regarded as Africa’s best-managed. It chose to ground its remaining 737 Max 8s until more information is known.
Alistair McPhail, British ambassador to Ethiopia, visited the crash scene where at least nine of his countrymen died. He agrees both with grounding the planes and performing a detailed investigation. “We owe it to the families to understand what happened,” he says.
(A Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane sits parked at Boeing’s assembly plant in Renton, Washington. Many nations have grounded the model following a fatal crash on Sunday, the second in just five months in which this popular jet model was involved. AP Photo)