Boeing 737 MAX 8 operations suspended in Australia after Ethiopian Airlines crash

| 12.03,19. 08:10 PM |

Boeing 737 MAX 8 operations suspended in Australia after Ethiopian Airlines crash

Boeing's newest version of its most popular plane, the 737 MAX, is again in the spotlight after another deadly crash minutes after take-off.

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) says it is suspending operations of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane in Australia after a deadly crash killed 157 people in Ethiopia at the weekend.

Fiji Airways was the only airline flying the MAX 8 into Australia after Singapore's Silk Air grounded its fleet early today.

In a statement released earlier today, Fiji Airways said it had "full confidence in the airworthiness" of its two aircraft.

On Sunday an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people aboard.

Safety concerns about the model were first raised in October after a Lion Air flight in Indonesia crashed, killing all 189 people aboard.

CASA director of aviation safety Shane Carmody said in a statement that the temporary suspension of Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes in Australia was in the best interests of safety.

"This is a temporary suspension while we wait for more information to review the safety risks of continued operations of the Boeing 737 MAX to and from Australia," he said.

"CASA regrets any inconvenience to passengers but believes it is important to always put safety first."

The organisation said it was closely monitoring the situation and said the suspension would be reviewed as relevant safety information became available from Boeing, the United States Federal Aviation Administration and accident investigators.

Boeing to roll out software updates

Boeing announced plans to upgrade software in its 737 MAX 8 planes "in the coming weeks" earlier today.

The move to deploy the upgrade came after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would mandate "design changes" in the MAX 8 aircraft by April.

In a notice, the FAA said Boeing was working to complete "flight control system enhancements, which provide reduced reliance on procedures associated with required pilot memory items".

Boeing rolled out the MAX 8 in 2017 as an update to the already redesigned 50-year-old 737, and had delivered 350 MAX jets out of the total order tally of 5,011 aircraft by the end of January.

Australia's move to suspend the MAX 8 follows China and Indonesia, which ordered their airlines to ground their Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes indefinitely on Monday.

Ethiopian Airlines spokesman Asrat Begashaw said the carrier had grounded its remaining four 737 MAX 8 planes until further notice as an "extra safety precaution".

The airline was using five new 737 MAX 8s and awaiting delivery of 25 more.

Virgin Australia has ordered 30 MAX 8s, but had not started using them prior to CASA's suspension of the model.

Comparisons to Lion Air crash premature: FAA

Preliminary reports following the Lion Air MAX 8 crash — the newest version of Boeing's single-aisle, narrow body aircraft — found the pilots struggled to control the plane.

The model's automatic safety system, designed to prevent stalling, was found to have repeatedly pushed the plane's nose down.

Pilots had to manually raise the nose to correct the flight, only for the sequence to repeat about five seconds later, the report said.

Investigators said they believed faulty information from sensors could have activated the system.

It is not known whether the same anti-stall system was at fault for the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

The FAA acknowledged the comparisons being drawn between the crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia earlier today.

"However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions," it said, according to the Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community for Boeing 737 MAX 8 operators.


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