Why Boeing Isn’t Grounding the 737 Max

By Paul Riegler on 13 March 2019
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In the three days following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 jet that killed 157 people, the United States found itself increasingly alone in the world.

The crash was the second time in six months that the new aircraft type had crashed minutes after takeoff and the two incidents raised questions about the new anti-stall software used on the plane, although no findings, preliminary or otherwise, have been provided by the agencies investigating the latest crash.

Every major aviation regulator across the globe with the exception of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration have grounded the aircraft.  Late Tuesday, the European Union suspended “all flight operations,” further underscoring the chasm. On Wednesday, Canada’s transportation minister joined their ranks by restricting commercial operation of the 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft over Canadian airspace, including take offs and landings. This move represents the first restriction on the 737 Max 9, a larger sibling of the Max 8 model.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and U.S. President Donald Trump spoke by telephone on Tuesday about the matter, a call that had been in the planning prior to but which came after the president sent out a tweet commenting that flying had become too complicated. Officials didn’t release details concerning what was discussed but a Boeing spokesman later said that Muilenburg “reiterated to the President our position that the MAX aircraft is safe.”

Meanwhile, the FAA – as of Wednesday midday – said it was continuing to review the matter and that the 737 Max 8 could remain in the air.

Neither public pressure nor what other countries are doing is a good reason for Boeing to ground the aircraft, however. The FAA’s acting administrator, Daniel Elwell, said Tuesday in a statement that its review of the aircraft “shows no systematic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft,” adding that no data provided by other civil aviation authorities have provided any data to the agency that would warrant such action.

The FAA said it continues to review all available data and aggregate safety performance information from operators and pilots of the Boeing 737 Max.

On Wednesday, several countries including Hong Kong, Lebanon, New Zealand, and Vietnam joined a list that includes the European Union, Australia, and Singapore among others in grounding the aircraft.

Two of Boeing’s largest customers – American Airlines and Southwest Airlines – have resisted pressure to ground the Max and say they are confident in the aircraft.

American has “full confidence in the aircraft and our crew members,” it said. Southwest said it remains “confident in the safety and airworthiness of the Max 8,” adding that it doesn’t “have any changes planned to our Max 8 operating plans.”

Boeing has had to ground a fleet of aircraft before. In 2013, after multiple incidents involving the planes’ batteries catching fire, Boeing was forced to ground its entire – albeit relatively small at the time – 787 Dreamliner fleet.

“Safety is Boeing’s number one priority and we have full confidence in the safety of the Max,” the Chicago-based company said in a statement late Tuesday.

“We understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets. It is also important to note that the Federal Aviation Administration is not mandating any further action at this time, and based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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