Updated 15:15 UTC, Mar. 14, 2019

French air accident investigation agency BEA has received the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) that were recovered from the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash site.

A BEA spokesman told Aviation Daily Mar. 14 the so-called “black boxes” arrived at 1 p.m. local time, four days after the Mar. 10 crash. 

BEA also tweeted “Coordination meetings are in progress. Technical work will start tomorrow.”

Flight 302 crashed near Addis Ababa soon after takeoff. All 157 people on board were killed.

The MAX is now grounded worldwide after FAA issued an emergency order Mar. 13 barring the aircraft from flying to or within the U.S., the last country to take such action.

The groundings are based on concerns about similarities of the flight 302 event with a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 that crashed off the Indonesian coast Oct. 29, killing all on board. While the Lion Air crash is still being investigated, satellite and wreckage evidence indicate similar patterns. Information on the FDR and CVR may be able to confirm or rule out those similarities.

—Helen Massy-Beresford

 

Updated 15:00 UTC, Mar. 14, 2019

WASHINGTON—Refined satellite tracking data combined with some non-defined physical evidence from the wreckage of the Ethiopian Airlines crash site prompted Canada, and then the U.S., to ground the Boeing 737 MAX.

The morning of Mar. 13, Canada’s transport ministry announced that country’s grounding. Three Canadian airlines—Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing—have MAXs in their fleets.

Hours later the same day, the U.S. abruptly changed course when President Donald Trump announced the U.S. was also grounding the MAX—the last country to do so. American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines operate MAXs.

Previously, FAA and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) had said there was no evidence linking the Mar. 10 Ethiopian flight ET302 MAX 8 crash to the Lion Air MAX 8 crash, flight JT610, that occurred in Indonesia in October 2018. They stood by a decision to not ground the MAX; Boeing and the U.S. airlines supported the decision, saying they were confident in the MAX’s safety.

Given that the two black box recorders retrieved from the Ethiopian wreckage were still unopened and unexamined Wednesday Mar. 13, the new evidence had to be something else.

FAA’s emergency order stated the new information concerned “the aircraft’s configuration just after takeoff that, taken together with newly refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft’s flight path,” which indicated similarities with what happened with the Lion Air flight.

“Suffice it to say the evidence found on the ground made it more likely that the flight path was closer to Lion Air,” FAA acting administrator Dan Elwell told reporters after the order was released.

The order’s language suggests discovery of wreckage that establishes the aircraft’s flight-control surface positions. Flight JT610 began to experience flight-control issues shortly after retracting its flaps after takeoff. Those issues are the focus of that ongoing investigation.

The refined satellite data, meanwhile, came from space-based ADS-B provider Aireon.

“The way the [initial] data was presented, it was not showing credible movement of an aircraft,” Elwell said.

The resulting track, including flight ET302’s altitude variations, lined up closely with JT610’s known track. This suggests ET302 was struggling to maintain altitude and then dove rapidly to impact, as happened with JT610 and which is why the Indonesian crash investigation is focused on the MAX’s maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) anti-stall software. That investigation, like ET302, is ongoing.

Canadian transport minister Marc Garneau said that while links between the two crashes were still not conclusive, “there are similarities that exceed a certain threshold in our minds.”

FAA’s Elwell, explaining why the agency was the last to issue a MAX grounding, said, “we are a fact-driven, data-based organization. We make actions based on data, findings and risk assessment. That data coalesced today and we made the call.”

But questions will be asked about the gap between Canada’s and the U.S.’ grounding decisions. Did the regulatory authorities of each country have access to that satellite data and wreckage information at about the same time? If so, what led the U.S. authorities to wait more than three hours after Canada? And why did the U.S. president make that announcement, not FAA or DOT?

U.S. lawmakers were quick to raise those questions and call for oversight of FAA’s decision-making processes.

U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), and House Aviation Subcommittee chair Rick Larsen (D-Washington) issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon saying, “Despite repeated assurances from the FAA in recent days, it has become abundantly clear to us that not only should the 737 MAX be grounded but also that there must be a rigorous investigation into why the aircraft, which has critical safety systems that did not exist on prior models, was certified without requiring additional pilot training. While a lot of data has yet to be recovered that will help explain why Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 went down, as chairs of the committee and subcommittee with jurisdiction over the FAA and NTSB, we plan to conduct rigorous oversight with every tool at our disposal to get to the bottom of the FAA’s decision-making process.”

—Karen Walker

 

Updated 14:45 UTC, Mar. 14, 2019

AUCKLAND—The global grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft is causing major operational headaches for many Asia-Pacific airlines, as they scramble to adjust their schedules to replace MAXs.

Several Asian carriers have MAX family aircraft in their fleets—in some cases just a handful, but still proportionally significant. Airlines have had to cancel some flights and reshuffle their fleets to cover for the MAXs. Even some carriers that have not yet received their first MAXs are altering their plans.

The groundings follow the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 near Addis Ababa on Mar. 10. Many countries suspended MAX operations in the days following the crash, which effectively became a global action Mar. 13 when FAA ordered groundings and Boeing made a similar recommendation.

India’s SpiceJet operates 12 737 MAX 8s, and was among those carriers canceling some flights. The airline said it is “optimizing” the use of its Boeing 737NGs and Bombardier Q400s. It is also “evaluating options for augmenting capacity in the coming days through a mix of additional flights and aircraft inductions.” The carrier did not elaborate where it may source extra aircraft from, but predicted its operations would return to normal soon.

While Indian carrier Jet Airways has taken delivery of five 737 MAX 8s, these were already grounded due to lease payment defaults.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) subsidiary SilkAir has six 737 MAX 8s in its fleet. Most of its MAX routes will be covered by SilkAir’s 737-800s, Airbus A320s and A319s. However, the carrier has still had to cancel three return flights per day on the busy Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route on Mar. 13-15, and two flights on its route to Yangon, Myanmar on Mar. 17.

To help compensate for the reductions, parent SIA will operate extra flights during these periods. SIA will operate one additional A350 return flight per day on the Kuala Lumpur route. It will also add a flight on the Yangon route.

Indonesia’s Lion Air operates 10 737 MAX 8s out of a total fleet of about 121 aircraft. The Jakarta Post reports Lion will use other aircraft in its fleet to replace the MAX 8s. Joint venture Thai Lion Air has three 737 MAX 9s, and during the grounding it will operate its MAX 9 routes with 737-900ERs, 737-800s and A330s.

Fiji Airways, which operates two 737 MAX 8s, said it “has the capacity to manage the change of aircraft type” on the MAX 8 routes. The carrier intends to operate its full schedule, although it said some flight times may be changed. It will use its 737NGs and A330s to cover for the MAX 8s.

Korean Air does not operate any MAX aircraft yet, although it is due to take delivery of six 737 MAX 8s this year. The first of these is due in May, but the carrier has decided to proactively switch to different aircraft types on the routes planned for the initial MAX 8s. The aircraft were due to be deployed on routes to Japan and China.

The airline said it will not operate the 737 MAX 8s until the aircraft’s safety is assured. If the MAXs are cleared before May, Korean will review its deployment plans again.

—Adrian Schofield

 

Updated 20:30 UTC, Mar. 13, 2019

WASHINGTON—The U.S. FAA, relying on refined satellite tracking data and new physical evidence that more closely links two crashes of Boeing 737 MAX 8s, grounded Boeing’s newest narrowbody Mar. 13, with immediate effect.

The move ends three days of cascading groundings after the Mar. 10 Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 (ET302) accident, and leaves the world’s MAX fleet grounded.

“On Mar. 13, 2018, the investigation of the ET302 crash developed new information from the wreckage concerning the aircraft’s configuration just after takeoff that, taken together with newly refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft’s flight path, indicates some similarities between the ET302 and [October 2018 Lion Air Flight] JT610 accidents that warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed,” FAA said in its emergency order.

FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell, speaking to reporters after the order was released, made it clear that FAA made the decision to ground the aircraft. “The FAA is the safety authority for emergency airworthiness directives and orders,” he said. “FAA made the decision.”

U.S. President Donald Trump announced the move in a White House briefing at 2:30 p.m. U.S. ET Mar. 13. “I didn’t want to make this decision today,” Trump said. “I felt it was important, psychologically and in a lot of other ways. We just thought it was the right thing to do.” Trump said he spoke to both Boeing and U.S.-based MAX operators, and they “agreed it is the right thing to do.”

The stunning move brings an end to a series of MAX groundings that swept the globe. Earlier Mar. 13, Canadian officials, citing the same satellite data the U.S. had, announced MAX flight bans. Copa Airlines, another grounding holdout, announced its intention to ground its aircraft just before the U.S. announcement.

In a statement, Boeing said it has full confidence in the MAX, but concurred with the move. “After consultation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and aviation authorities and its customers around the world, Boeing has determined—out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety—to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft. Boeing makes this recommendation and supports the decision by the FAA,” the company said.

—Sean Broderick

 

Updated 19:00 UTC, Mar. 13, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the FAA to ground Boeing 737 MAXs immediately, ending three days of mounting pressure as industry seeks answers in two MAX aircraft accidents in five months. Aircraft in the air would land and stay grounded "until further notice," Trump said in a White House briefing at 2:30 p.m. U.S. ET Mar. 13.

"I didn't want to make this decision today," Trump said. "I felt it was important, psychologically and in a lot of other ways. We just thought it was the right thing to do."

FAA will issue an emergency airworthiness directive banning MAX operations.

FAA confirmed the grounding decision with a statement released at 3:00 p.m. U.S. ET, saying the agency made the decision “as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today. The evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to FAA this morning, led to this decision.” FAA said the grounding will remain in effect pending further investigation, including examination of information from the aircraft’s flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders.

Trump said he spoke to both Boeing and U.S.-based MAX operators, and they "agreed it is the right thing to do."

The stunning move brings an end to a cascading series of MAX groundings that swept the globe. Earlier Mar. 13, Canadian officials, citing new data analyzed hours before, announced MAX flight bans. Copa Airlines, another grounding holdout, announced its intention to ground its aircraft just before the U.S. announcement.

In a statement, Boeing said it has full confidence in the MAX, but concurred with the move.

"After consultation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and aviation authorities and its customers around the world, Boeing has determined — out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety — to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft. Boeing makes this recommendation and supports the decision by the FAA."

- Sean Broderick

 

 

Updated 17:00 UTC, Mar. 13, 2019

Canadian regulators, citing satellite tracking data that suggest the flight profile of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX that crashed Mar. 10 is similar to that of last October’s Lion Air MAX 8 accident, has banned all MAX operations in Canada until further notice.

The move, announced at 11:45 a.m. Canadian EDT Mar. 13 and done via a safety notice, is based on data received overnight and reviewed “this morning” by Canadian aviation experts, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said during a press briefing.

The satellite data analyzed included Ethiopian Flight ET302’s course, vertical profile, and “fluctuation in that vertical profile,” Garneau said. This was overlaid with a similar data set for Lion Air Flight JT610.

“We know what happened with the Lion Air flight,” Garneau said. “We wanted to see if the Ethiopian flight resembled it.”

They saw enough similarities to ban MAX operations.

Garneau cautioned that while the links between the two accidents “are not conclusive, there are similarities that exceed a certain threshold in our minds.”

Canada’s grounding justification is the strongest link yet between the two accidents involving newly delivered MAX 8s. In each case, the aircraft departed on early morning flights in clear weather. Both crews soon reported flight control problems and requested to return to their departure airports. Soon after, both went nose down at high speed and crashed.

The JT610 accident probe is focusing on erroneous sensor data triggering automatic nose-down inputs generated by the MAX’s maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), which helps the aircraft’s performance match the 737 Next Generation (NG) in certain manual flight profiles.

Faulty data, such as a single angle-of-attack (AOA) sensor telling the aircraft that its nose its higher than it is, can cause MCAS to repeatedly push the nose down with automatic stabilizer deflections to compensate. Pilots can counter MCAS in several ways, including a switch that adjusts the automatic trim. But continuous faulty data will cause MCAS will respond with nose-down input, countering the pilots’ inputs. This was apparently the case on JT610.

Like the 737NG, the MAX includes a cutout switch that completely stops the automatic stabilizer movements—a last-resort step included in a pilot checklist designed to prevent unwanted nose-down input. The JT610 crew apparently did not activate the switches.

Little is known about what happened on ET302’s flight deck. The flight data and cockpit voice recorders have been recovered, but the data has not been analyzed. Airlines and regulators, caught in a state of limbo, have opted to ground the MAX and wait for more information. Canada and the U.S. had been the lone notable exceptions.

Now, the U.S. stands alone.

“Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft,” FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said late Mar. 12. “Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action.”

Garneau said Canada informed the U.S. of its plans to ground the MAX “a short time” before the announcement was made.

Meanwhile, U.S. MAX operators continued to reiterate their confidence in the MAX.

“The Allied Pilots Association (APA), representing the 15,000 pilots of American Airlines, remains confident in the Boeing 737 MAX and in our members’ ability to safely fly it,” APA said. “The pilots for the world’s largest airline have the necessary training and experience to troubleshoot problems and take decisive actions on the flight deck to protect our passengers and crew. In the wake of the tragic loss of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on Sunday, people around the world are jumping to conclusions about the Boeing 737 MAX. It is too early to determine possible causes.”

United Airlines’ Air Line Pilots Association Master Executive Council, in a message to the airline’s pilots, said the carrier has flown “more than 23,000 hours and analyzed thousands of safety data points” from its MAX 9 fleet. “Not one of these data points has been attributable to performance or mechanical deficiencies.”

Garneau said that Canadian regulators asked the country’s MAX operators, Air Canada, Sunwing, and WestJet, for any MCAS-related fault reports. The operators said they had none. - Sean Broderick

 

Updated 15:00 UTC, Mar. 13, 2019

Airlines and regulators in several more Asia-Pacific nations have suspended operations of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft following the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10.

The latest countries affected by suspensions are Fiji, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, South Korea and Thailand. Already on this list are other countries in the region including Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.  

India is a particularly significant addition to the list of countries temporarily halting MAX operations, as it has two domestic airlines with these aircraft in their fleets. SpiceJet has 13 737-8s, and Jet Airways has five. However, Jet’s were believed to be already grounded due to lease payment defaults.

India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) grounded the 737 MAX aircraft on March 13. It also stated that no MAX aircraft would be allowed to transit Indian airspace after 4p.m local time (10.30 a.m. UTC). The deadline is intended to allow aircraft to be positioned at maintenance facilities and for international flights to reach their destinations, the DGCA said.

South Korea’s Eastar Jet is the only operator of 737 MAX aircraft in that country. The airline on March 12 agreed to suspend operations of its two 737-8s after consultation with South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT). The suspension is effective from March 13. MOLIT had previously asked the carrier to conduct extra inspections and monitoring on MAX aircraft.

Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department said on March 13 that all 737 MAX operations “into, out of and over” its territory will be prohibited from 6p.m. local time. Two airlines fly 737 MAX aircraft into Hong Kong – SpiceJet and Russia’s Globus Airlines. Both carriers have told CAD they will continue service into Hong Kong with other aircraft types.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) announced it would suspend the operations of the three 737-9s operated by LCC Thai Lion Air. The suspension will begin from midnight on March 13 to allow the aircraft to be positioned in the right airport, and will run through March 20. Most other aviation authorities have not set end dates for their suspensions.

Fiji Airways and Fiji’s Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAAF) have decided to temporarily ground the airline’s two 737-8s “until more information is known” about the cause of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, according to a joint statement. Fiji Airways began operating 737-8s in December 2018.

The wording of the joint statement indicates that the airline and CAAF have taken this action reluctantly. Fiji Airways and CAAF stressed they “continue to have full confidence in the airworthiness of the Boeing 737 MAX.” The aircraft has “proven to be reliable and efficient, and continuous flight data monitoring has not identified any issues that would give rise to a cause for concern.”

Despite this, the temporary grounding was decided “out of deference to the position taken by [other] regulators in our region, and in response to the concerns expressed by the general public.” The decision will be reviewed in light of any new information, the statement said.

Fiji Airways operates its 737-8 to Australia and New Zealand, and both these countries have suspended all MAX operations even though no airlines based there have MAX aircraft in their fleets. Fiji Airways is the only carrier flying 737 MAXs to New Zealand, and the country’s Civil Aviation Authority issued the suspension on March 13 after taking into consideration “the level of uncertainty regarding the cause of the recent Ethiopian Airlines accident plus [CAA’s] review of the aircraft design.”

In Mainland China, airlines appear to be coping with the 737 MAX groundings with relatively little disruption.

Industry sources noted that capacity was not tight before the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) told airlines on the night of March 10, local time, that 737-8 MAXs would be grounded on March 11. Airlines were therefore able in many cases to substitute aircraft of other types or other 737 versions, most commonly 737-800s, for the grounded 737-8s. 

Of 355 Chinese flights due to be operated by 737-8s on March 11, only 29 were canceled, according to Chinese aviation data firm VariFlight. 

Airlines have also responded by merging flights: in those cases, one carrier has deployed a widebody aircraft to replace one of its own narrowbodies and one belonging to another airline.

A further factor mitigating the impact of the grounding in China has been that some 737-8 MAXs were already non-operational, because of trouble with their CFM Leap-1B engines, the industry sources said.

The CAAC did not issue its formal documentary notice of grounding until 9 a.m. on March 11, and it permitted flying until 6 p.m. However, because of the initial notifications the night before, almost no Chinese 737-8 MAXs flew on March 11.

Chinese airlines have 96 737 MAXs, all of which are 737-8s. China Southern Airlines has the most with 24. -Adrian Schofield, Bradley Perrett

 

Updated 1000 UTC, Mar. 13, 2019

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) is urging for more clarity in a timely manner from FAA and Boeing on the proposed modifications for the Boeing 737 MAX so that regulators and airlines can make sound judgments and instill confidence.  

“Firstly, our thoughts are with those affected by the recent tragic accidents,” AAPA Director General Andrew Herdman told Aviation Daily sister publication ATW. “We can see some differences in the decision-making approaches taken by various regulators. Typically this is quite analytical, based on gathering of data, and careful deliberation before making changes.”

Boeing and FAA are reportedly looking at possible design, training and procedural changes following the Lion Air accident in 2018, but Herdman thinks that it has taken longer than some would have liked.

While initial findings of the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 are yet to be released, he agrees that the close frequency of the accidents has raised public interest.  

“If any evidence becomes available suggesting that lessons from the Lion Air incident might have avoided the Ethiopian accident, that would raise issues about the speed of decision making, and the sharing of possible lessons to be learned from Lion Air,” he added. “In any case, I think the timing of how soon the FAA and Boeing are able to implement such changes will have an impact on the willingness of other regulators to lift the temporary operating suspensions. The regulators need more facts and active dialogue.”

He cautioned that the cascading effect of regulators suspending the aircraft type across the globe could ‘unduly alarm the public’, but he stressed that flying is extraordinarily safe and the aviation community is always working closely together to make it ever safer.

“The regulators are acting in good faith even though they may come to different conclusions, based on their available information and judgment. The public can rest assured that as and when the suspensions are lifted they can have every confidence on the integrity of the air transport system,” he said.

AAPA is in contact with its member airlines and has been sharing information regarding these and related developments. Every effort is being made to minimize disruption of services to the traveling public. - Chen Chuanren
 

Updated 19:05 UTC, Mar. 12, 2019

 

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) decided Mar. 12 to suspend all Boeing 737 MAX flight operations in Europe until further notice.

EASA said in a statement that it has issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) mandating the suspension “as a precautionary measure” and “following the tragic accident of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302.” The agency also issued a safety directive suspending all 737 MAX operations by non-European airlines into and out of the region. Both decisions became effective at 19:00 UTC Mar. 12.

The agency said it is “continuously analyzing the data as it becomes available. The accident investigation is currently ongoing, and it is too early to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the accident.”

The EASA decision was preceded by individual European Union member states which decided earlier on Mar. 12 to ban 737 MAX operations. The UK went first, followed by Germany and France. Industry sources report serious behind-the-scenes disputes about the unilateral decision by the UK, which appears to have triggered reaction by other countries. Several more followed, including Ireland, Austria and Switzerland.

EASA and FAA typically coordinate action closely, but differ in their reaction to the two Boeing accidents.

In the UK, "the UK Civil Aviation Authority [CAA] has been closely monitoring the situation,” CAA said in a statement. “However, as we do not currently have sufficient information from the flight data recorder we have, as a precautionary measure, issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace.” The CAA added that it remained “in close contact with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and industry regulators globally.”

Germany’s decision was initially announced by Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer in a TV interview and later confirmed by the ministry. German air traffic control provider DFS said the MAX ban in the country was foreseen to last three months. French authority DGAC pointed out that no French airlines operate the MAX, but it would close its airspace for the type as a precaution until further notice.

Before the European authorities Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and China had banned the aircraft. Individual airlines also decided to stop flying the MAX, including Aeromexico, Gol, Icelandair, Ethiopian and Norwegian.

As a reaction, Boeing stated that safety was its “number one priority and we have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. We understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets. We’ll continue to engage with them to ensure they have the information needed to have confidence in operating their fleets. The United States 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.”

Airlines were suffering a substantial capacity and network impact as a result of the groundings. In Europe, Norwegian was most affected with a fleet of 18 aircraft that it can no longer operate for now. The airline said it is working on reallocating other aircraft on MAX routes, re-booking passengers and combining flights to minimize the impact. All aircraft that were airborne at the time of the decision were to continue to their destination or home base.

Turkish Airlines and TUI, which both have twelve MAXs in service, are also large MAX operators in the region.

FAA stated Mar. 11 that “this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions.” The authority issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC). - Jens Flottau

 

Updated 16:30 UTC, Mar. 12, 2019

Pressure on FAA and Boeing is mounting after several European countries—including the UK, France, Germany and Ireland—announced Mar. 12 their decision to ban all Boeing 737 MAX flight operations until further notice.

"The UK Civil Aviation Authority [CAA] has been closely monitoring the situation,” the CAA said in a statement. “However, as we do not currently have sufficient information from the flight data recorder we have, as a precautionary measure, issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace.” The CAA added that it remained “in close contact with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and industry regulators globally.”

Germany’s decision was initially announced by Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer in a TV interview and later confirmed by the ministry. French authority DGAC pointed out that no French airlines operate the MAX, but it would close its airspace for the type as a precaution until further notice.

EASA said it was analyzing the situation and was preparing a decision later in the day.

As a reaction, Boeing stated Mar. 12 that safety was its “number one priority and we have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. We understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets. We’ll continue to engage with them to ensure they have the information needed to have confidence in operating their fleets. The United States 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.”

 

Updated 15:00 UTC, Mar. 12, 2019

Malaysia joined Singapore Mar. 12 as the latest Southeast Asia country to suspend all Boeing 737 MAX 8 flights in and out of the country. “The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia with immediate effect is suspending the operations of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft flying to or from Malaysia and transiting in Malaysia until further notice,”  Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia CEO Ahmad Nizar Zolfakar said in a statement. 

None of Malaysia’s airlines flies the narrowbody, however, according to Nikkei Asian Review.  Malaysia Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali urged the country’s sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah, to "revisit" the agreement to purchase 25 737 MAX 8s for Malaysia Airlines.

While Indonesia’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) ordered the grounding of the country’s 737 MAX 8, it did not prevent other operators from flying in or out of its airspace like restrictions imposed by Singapore, Malaysia and Australia. This restriction meant that LCC Thai Lion Air would not be able to operate its 737 MAX 9 south of Thailand, as the Kingdom’s regulator has not imposed any restrictions at press time.

Updated 09:30 UTC, Mar. 12, 2019

Australia has followed other countries by temporarily suspending Boeing 737 MAX flights, with Fiji Airways the main carrier affected by the decision.

The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said the suspension affects all flights into and out of Australia. While no Australian airlines operate MAXs, two foreign carriers – SilkAir and Fiji Airways – fly these aircraft on Australian routes. However, SilkAir’s MAX operations have already been suspended by a similar directive from Singapore authorities.

CASA said it is “working with Fiji Airways to minimize any disruptions and with regulators in Fiji and Singapore.” The Fijian carrier has two 737 MAX aircraft, and these will be replaced on Australian routes by other aircraft types, according to CASA.

The suspension is “in the best interests of safety” and was made “in light of the two recent fatal accidents,” said CASA CEO Shane Carmody. “This is a temporary suspension while we wait for more information to review the safety risks of continued operations of the Boeing 737 MAX.”

CASA will continue to monitor the situation, and the suspension “will be reviewed as relevant safety information becomes available” from Boeing, the FAA, and accident investigators.

 

Updated 03:00 UTC, Mar. 12, 2019

Singapore has become the latest country to temporarily suspend operations involving Boeing 737 MAX variants.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said the suspension will take effect from 2 p.m. local time (GMT +8) on March 12. It is halting all operations of the type in and out of Singapore, “in light of two fatal accidents involving Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in less than five months.”

Currently, Singapore Airline’s (SIA) regional arm Silkair is operating six 737-8s, alongside 737-800s. The day before the CAAS decision, SIA had said it was “closely monitoring the situation” regarding the 737-8s.

Other airlines flying the 737-8 into Singapore include China Southern Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Shandong Airlines and Thai Lion Air.

“CAAS has been in regular contact with SilkAir on its MAX operations since last year, and has been satisfied that it has been taking appropriate measures to comply with the necessary safety requirements,” said the CAAS statement.

“CAAS will gather more information and review the safety risk associated with the continued operation of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into and out of Singapore.” The regulator said it is in close communication with FAA, other regional regulators and Boeing.

 

Updated 16:30 UTC, Mar. 11, 2019

South Africa's Comair is removing its lone Boeing 737-8 MAX-family aircraft from its schedule, adding to a list of airlines that are parking Boeing's newest single-aisle model until more is known about the Mar. 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737-8.

"Comair has decided to remove its 737 MAX from its flight schedule, although neither regulatory authorities nor the manufacturer has required it to do so," said Wrenelle Stander, executive director of Comair’s airline division. "While Comair has done extensive preparatory work prior to the introduction of the first 737 MAX into its fleet and remains confident in the inherent safety of the aircraft, it has decided temporarily not to schedule the aircraft while it consults with other operators, Boeing and technical experts."

Comair took delivery of its first 737-8 on Feb. 27 and put it into service shortly after. The airline is slated to accept another one this month. It has ordered a total of eight 737 MAX aircraft, and will fly them under its British Airways-branded airline operation. The first sub-Saharan operator to take delivery of a 737 MAX-family model, it also operates 737-400s—which are being replaced by the newest models—and 737-800s.

Investigators are just beginning the probe into the crash of Ethiopian ET302, which went down six minutes into a scheduled flight to Addis Ababa. Of particular interest will be any links to the October 2018 crash of Lion Air Flight 610. In both accidents, nearly-new 737-8 went down minutes after departure, and following distress calls from their flight crews.

While the investigation has not turned up any definitive links between the two accident sequences, Comair and others have taken the unusual step of grounding the affected fleet until more is understood.

 

Updated 15:00 UTC, Mar. 11, 2019

China, Indonesia, Ethiopian Airlines and Cayman Airways have temporarily grounded the Boeing 737 MAX 8 following a second crash of the type in less than six months.

The MAX was already under scrutiny by Indonesian authorities following the crash of Lion Air JT610 on Oct. 29 in which all 189 people were killed. There has been no indication so far that the two crashes are linked.

Nevertheless, the Indonesian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) late on Mar. 11 said MAX 8s operated by Indonesian airlines would be grounded while additional inspections were carried out. Inspections are to begin as soon as Mar. 12, the DGCA said.

Two Indonesian carriers operate MAX 8s. Lion Air has 10 in its fleet, and Garuda Indonesia has one, according to the DGCA notice. Both carriers have more on order.

The Indonesian DGCA stressed that Boeing and the FAA have said they will advise if any further steps become necessary.

Authorities in China had already moved to ground MAX 8s operated by their carriers, and Ethiopian Airlines and Cayman Airways have done the same with their MAX fleets. Other countries and airlines operating MAX 8s are taking a wait-and-see approach. For example, Singapore’s SilkAir said it was “monitoring the situation closely,” although there has been no change to its current operations – including scheduled MAX flights to China.

Cayman Airways pulled its two MAX 8s from service, with president and CEO Fabian Whorms saying "while the cause of this sad loss is undetermined at this time, we stand by our commitment to putting the safety of our passengers and crew first by maintaining complete and undoubtable safe operations, and as such, we have taken the decision to suspend operations of both our new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, effective from Monday, Mar. 11, 2019, until more information is received.”

Cayman’s second MAX was delivered just a week ago.

Cayman has taken delivery of two MAX 8s—one in November and one last week.

More than 70 MAX 8s are in service with Chinese airlines that include Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, and Hainan Airlines.

The Indonesia JT610 investigation is focusing on the roles of erroneous sensor data, a new flight-control law—the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) that was added to the 737 MAX family design to avoid stall—and how the Lion Air crew responded to what they faced.

Information released by Indonesian investigators show JT610's flight crew struggled to keep the MAX 8s nose up, apparently working to counter MCAS, which was automatically pushing the nose down in response to the erroneous data. A procedure that would override MCAS was apparently not followed by the JT610 crew, though it is unclear how much they understood about the failure sequence. The aircraft crashed into the Java Sea.

In the days after the Lion Air accident, Boeing issued messages to operators expanding on MCAS, and reiterating that the procedure for overriding automatic, repeated, nosedown inputs, remained unchanged from previous 737 models. FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive requiring MAX operators to update their flight manuals with Boeing's MCAS information. Boeing's messages and the mandate did not require any new training or changes to the system.

As of Monday morning, No U.S. airline had indicated it would pull MAX 8s from service. U.S. operators include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines. Worldwide, airlines have taken delivery of about 350 MAX 8s, and about 100 of them are affected by voluntary groundings.

However, U.S. Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) president Sara Nelson has formally requested FAA to conduct an investigation into the 737 MAX.

“Crew and passengers are expressing concern about the 737 MAX 8 following a second crash, with similar characteristics to the Lion Air Flight 610 (JT610) crash," Nelson said in a Mar. 11 statement. "While it is important that we not draw conclusions without all of the facts, in the wake of a second accident, regulators, manufacturers, and airlines must take steps to address concerns immediately. AFA is formally requesting the FAA conduct an investigation into the 737 MAX.”

Boeing, FAA and the NTSB are among those participating in both accident investigations.

Boeing has booked more than 5,100 orders for 737 MAX-family aircraft; the first MAX 8 entered service in May 2017.

 

Updated 14:45 UTC Mar. 11, 2019

Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) President Sara Nelson, while cautioning that it is too early to draw "conclusions without all the facts" from the Mar. 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737-8, is "formally requesting" that the U.S. FAA conduct "an investigation into the 737 Max" in light of two accidents in five months involving the model.

“Crew and passengers are expressing concern about the 737 MAX 8 following a second crash, with similar characteristics to the Lion Air Flight 610 [JT610] crash," Nelson said in a Mar. 11 statement. "While it is important that we not draw conclusions without all of the facts, in the wake of a second accident, regulators, manufacturers, and airlines must take steps to address concerns immediately. AFA is formally requesting the FAA conduct an investigation into the 737 MAX.”

AFA represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants and is part of the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO. Airlines represented include United Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Nelson's call comes following groundings ordered by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and multiple airlines, including Ethiopian. No U.S. airline has said it will pull 737-8s from service. U.S. operators include Alaska, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United. Worldwide, airlines have taken delivery of about 350 737-8s, and about 100 of them are affected by voluntary groundings. 

Investigators recovered the flight data and cockpit voice recorders from the Ethiopian Flight ET302 accident site near Addis Ababa just hours before Nelson's call for a probe into the aircraft type. Groundings are being taken in a precautionary move while investigators work to identify a basic chain of events in the Ethiopian accident and compare it to what is known about the October 2018 crash of JT610, a Lion Air 737-8. 

Both accidents occurred shortly after takeoff in good weather, including distress calls from pilots, and ended with the aircraft descending at a rapid speed. So far, however, no links have been made tying the two accidents together that suggest the newest 737 poses a safety risk.

Following the Lion Air accident, Boeing and FAA reviewed some 737-8 flight-control systems and issued one mandatory directive calling attention to certain procedures for handling automatic nose-down inputs that the Max can make during manual flight. No changes to the aircraft, its operation, or training were ordered.

Boeing, FAA and the NTSB are among those participating in both accident investigations.

 

Updated 1230 UTC Mar. 11, 2019

Airline operators are temporarily grounding Boeing 737 MAX 8s following the fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 on Mar. 10.

Flight ET302 crashed six minutes after departing Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. All 157 passengers and crew were killed. The flight data recorder and cockpit data recorder have both been recovered, according to Ethiopian Airlines.

Following earlier decisions by Ethiopian Airlines, Cayman Airways, all Chinese carriers and Royal Air Maroc to ground their fleets, the Indonesian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) late on Mar. 11 said 737 MAX 8s operated by Indonesian airlines would be grounded while additional inspections are carried out. Inspections are to begin as soon as Mar.12, the DGCA said.

Two Indonesian carriers operate 737 MAX 8s. Lion Air has 10 in its fleet, and Garuda Indonesia has one, according to the DGCA notice. Both carriers have more on order.

Boeing 737 MAX 8s have already received extra scrutiny by Indonesian authorities following the crash of Lion Air JT610 on Oct. 29. There has been no indication so far that the two crashes are linked.

The Indonesian DGCA stressed that Boeing and the FAA have said they will advise if any further steps become necessary.

Boeing has booked more than 5,100 orders for 737 MAX-family aircraft and delivered about 350. The first 737 MAX 8 entered service in May 2017.

Updated 0600 UTC Mar. 11, 2019

Operators Ethiopian Airlines and Cayman Airways, as well as all Chinese carriers have grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8s until more is known about the Mar. 10 Ethiopian accident in Addis Ababa—the second fatal accident involving the aircraft type in less than five months.

Ethiopian's decision to ground its four remaining 737 MAX 8s came about 23 hr. after Flight ET302, a three-month-old 737 MAX 8, crashed six minutes after departing Bole International Airport early Mar. 10 Addis Ababa time.

"Ethiopian Airlines has decided to ground all B-737-8 MAX fleet effective yesterday March 10, 2019 until further notice," the airline said Mar. 11. "Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we had to decide to ground the particular fleet as extra safety precaution."

China's groundings come via a Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) order issued Mar. 11 "requesting domestic transportation airlines to suspend the commercial operation" of 737-8s by 6p.m. CAAC cited "the management principle of zero tolerance for safety hazards and strict control of safety risks" in making the move, adding that both 737-8 accidents occurred "in the take-off phase" and "have certain similarities."

CAAC said it "will contact the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing Company" and clear airlines to resume 737 MAX 8 operations "after confirming the relevant measures to effectively ensure flight safety."

More than 90 737 MAX 8s are in service with Chinese operators, including Air China, China Eastern, China Southern and Hainan Airlines. 

Cayman Airways President and CEO Fabian Whorms said the carrier "stands by our commitment to putting the safety of our passengers and crew first by maintaining complete and undoubtable safe operations, and as such, we have taken the decision to suspend operations of both our new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, effective from Monday, March 11, 2019, until more information is received." 

Cayman has taken delivery of two 737 MAX 8s—one in November and one last week. Its fleet also includes three 737-300s, Aviation Week's Fleet Discovery shows.

"We offer our valued customers our continued assurance that all prudent and necessary actions required for the safe operation of our MAX 8s will be accomplished before the aircraft are returned to service," he said, adding that "some relatively minor, but necessary schedule and capacity changes will be needed over the next few days to manage the flight schedule."

Other operators of 737 MAX 8s are holding off grounding aircraft. Singapore-based SilkAir said it is "monitoring the situation closely" regarding the 737 MAX 8s, but for now the aircraft will continue to operate as scheduled, including on flights to China.

 

- with contributions from global Aviation Week Network editors