Over 40% of world’s 737 Max 8s grounded after deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash

by - 4 min read

Over 40% of world’s 737 Max 8s grounded after deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash

by - 4 min read


By Tuesday, civil aviation authorities or airlines had grounded more than 40 per cent of the world’s in-service fleet of 737 Max 8s — the type of jet involved in an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people, including 18 Canadians.

Sunday’s disaster — following another fatal crash of a 737 Max 8 jet in Indonesia five months ago — has caused alarm in the international aviation industry and wiped billions of dollars off the market value of the world’s biggest plane-maker.

The U.K. became the latest jurisdiction to ban the jet from its airspace.

The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement Tuesday that it had been monitoring the situation, but as a precautionary measure had “issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying U.K. airspace.” 

Some five 737 Max aircraft are registered and operational in the United Kingdom, while a sixth had planned to commence operations later this week.

A memorial at the scene of the crash. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

Earlier Tuesday, Australia and Singapore suspended all flights into or out of their countries. 

Ethiopian Airlines and all Chinese airlines grounded their Max 8 planes indefinitely immediately after the crash. Ethiopian has four of the planes remaining in its fleet and was awaiting delivery of 25 more. China has 96 Max 8 jets in service.

Indonesia also said Monday it grounded 11 of the aircraft for inspections.

As of Tuesday, the following had also temporarily suspended operation of their Max 8s:

  • Caribbean carrier Cayman Airways.
  • South Korea’s Eastar Jet.
  • Singapore-based SilkAir.
  • Brazil’s Gol Airlines.
  • Argentina’s state airline AerolineasArgentinas.
  • Mexican airline Aeromexico.
  • Comair in South Africa.
  • Royal Air Maroc in Morocco. 

Norwegian Air initially said it would keep flying Max 8s, but reversed that decision later Tuesday morning on the advice of European regulators.

Still, other major airlines, including American and Southwest in the U.S., said they would keep flying the Max 8.

Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said it would be “premature” to ground all 41 of the planes currently owned by the country’s air carriers.

Speaking to reporters in Montreal on Monday, Garneau said he would “without any hesitation” fly on a Max 8.

“I’m reassuring Canadians that we will determine what the cause was [of the Ethiopian] crash,” he said. “This plane already has millions of miles of flying.”

Canada’s two largest airlines say they are confident in the safety of the aircraft. 

Air Canada said its 24 Max 8 aircraft have performed “excellently” and met safety and reliability standards.

Calgary-based WestJet said it is “working with Boeing to ensure the continued safe operation of our Max fleet,” which includes 13 Max 8s.

Families wait for remains

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 came down in a field soon after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, creating a fireball in a crater. It may be weeks or months before all the victims are identified.

Black box recorders were found at the Ethiopian crash site on Monday, but it was unclear where they would be examined.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 entered commercial use in 2017 and can carry up to 210 passengers. (Boeing)

As long as the recordings are undamaged, the cause of the crash could be identified quickly, although it typically takes a year to complete an investigation.

Given the problems identifying them at the charred disaster site, Ethiopia Airlines said it would take at least five days to start returning the remains to families.

“We are Muslim and have to bury our deceased immediately,” Noordin Mohamed, a 27-year-old Kenyan businessman whose brother and mother died, told Reuters.

“Losing a brother and mother in the same day and not having their bodies to bury is very painful,” he said in Nairobi, where the plane had been due.

Design changes

Safety experts say it is too early to speculate on what caused Sunday’s crash or whether the two recent accidents are linked. Most accidents are caused by a unique chain of events combining human and technical factors.

Boeing has said it will deploy a software upgrade to the 737 Max 8.

Boeing said after October’s Lion Air Flight crash that it has for several months “been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 Max, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer.”

The software upgrade “will be deployed across the 737 Max fleet in the coming weeks,” it said.

But the company said it has no reason to pull the aircraft from the skies “based on the information available.”

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it is overseeing some design changes to the aircraft, expected to be in place by April. The FAA said it expects Boeing will soon complete improvements to an automated anti-stall system suspected of contributing to the deadly crash of another new Boeing 737 Max 8 in Indonesian waters in October, and update training requirements and related flight crew manuals.

Shares of Chicago-based Boeing slid almost 10 per cent in early trading on Monday. They ended the day down five per cent, halting a surge that has seen the value of the company’s stock triple in just over three years to a record high of $446 US last week.

This story originally appeared on CBC