EU Grounds all Boeing 737 Max Flights after Ethiopia Crash

12 March 2019 3:57pm
Ethipia crash scene

The European Union’s aviation safety regulator on Tuesday (March 12) suspended all flights in the bloc by Boeing 737 Max planes in the biggest setback yet for the US planemaker following a crash in Ethiopia that killed 157 people.

The move came after Britain, Germany and France joined a wave of suspensions of the aircraft in the wake of Sunday’s crash, and was swiftly followed by a similar decision by India, piling pressure on the United States to follow suit.

Boeing, the world’s biggest planemaker, which has seen billions of dollars wiped off its market value, said it understood the countries’ actions but retained “full confidence” in the 737 Max and had safety as its priority.

It also said the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) had not demanded any further action related to 737 Max operations.

The cause of Sunday’s crash, which followed another disaster with a 737 Max five months ago in Indonesia that killed 189 people, remains unknown. There is no evidence yet whether the two crashes are linked.

In an unusual move, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it was suspending all flights in the bloc of Boeing’s 737 Max 8 and 9 jets.

However, it shied away from the even rarer step of pulling the safety certification for the plane itself, focusing instead on the softer process of restricting its use by airlines. The move leaves some leeway for the FAA to decide its own approach.

The decision by some states to ban not only arrivals and departures but flights crossing through their airspace surprised some regulatory sources even in regions banning the plane, since overflights are usually protected by international law.

Boeing sank more than 5 percent to US$400.01 in New York after paring losses earlier in Monday's trading session of as much as 13 percent. That was the biggest intraday decline since Sept 17, 2001, the first day of trading after the 9/11 attacks.

The new variant of the 737, the world’s most-sold modern passenger aircraft, is viewed as the likely workhorse for global airlines for decades and another 4,661 are on order.

Over 40 percent of the Max fleet has been grounded, Flightglobal said, though many airlines still use older jets.

Still, major customers including top airlines from North America kept flying the 737 Max. Southwest Airlines, which operates the largest fleet of 737 Max 8s, said it remained confident in the safety of all its Boeing planes.

Source: Reuters

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