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Checkpoint Asia

US Says ‘No Basis’ to Suspend Boeing 737 MAX 8, but at Least 45 Countries Disagree

The EU has followed China’s lead in grounding the US aircraft

US aviation regulators said there was “no basis” to suspend flights of Boeing’s 737 MAX jet after two fatal crashes that prompted several airlines and at least 45 countries to either ground the troubled aircraft or bar it from their airspace.

“Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft. Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action,” the Federal Aviation Administration’s acting administrator Daniel Elwell, said.

The groundings come after an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet crashed on Sunday, six minutes after take-off, killing all 157 people on board, including seven Chinese nationals and one Hongkonger.

Officials from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) pray at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed. Photo: AP

On October 29 last year, another MAX jet flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea, 12 minutes after take-off, killing all 189 passengers and crew.

China’s Boeing 737 MAX ban signals challenge to US power in civil aviation

Hong Kong on Wednesday joined Vietnam, Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand, and banned the MAX jet from its airspace.

That came after the European Union on Tuesday followed China’s lead in grounding the US aircraft.

“Having regard to the latest situation, the CAD has decided to temporarily prohibit operation of Boeing B737 MAX aircraft into, out of and over Hong Kong,” a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) said in a statement.

“The temporary prohibition will take effect at 6pm Hong Kong time on March 13 and continue until further notice,” the CAD added.

As of Wednesday afternoon Hong Kong time, at least the US, Canada, Panama, Thailand and Mauritania permitted airlines to fly the 737 MAX, for now.

China’s decision to ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 driven by safety concerns

Turkish Airlines, one of the largest carriers in the world, said it was suspending use of its 12 MAX aircraft from Wednesday, until “uncertainty” was clarified.

Low-cost airline Norwegian Air Shuttle, South Korea’s Eastar Jet and South Africa’s Comair also said they would halt flights.

The three US airlines using the 737 MAX – Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines – stood by the aircraft, as calls from members of the US Congress to ban the Boeing 737 MAX from US airspace increased.

Republicans Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz joined several Democratic lawmakers in advocating for restrictions similar to those imposed by a growing list of nations.

America’s largest unions for airline flight attendants have also called on US regulators to ground the aircraft.

US President Donald Trump also weighed in with a blistering tweet on Tuesday: “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly.”

“Pilot are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT,” he wrote, referring to the prestigious university.

The New York Times reported that Boeing Company’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg called Trump, urging him not to ground the plane.

Boeing donated US$1 million to Trump’s presidential inauguration and Muilenburg visited Trump at his Florida getaway in Mar-a-Lago.

US President Donald Trump speaks with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg during a tour of the Boeing Company in St. Louis, Missouri. File photo: AFP

Brian Parrish, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines which flies 34 MAX 8s, said the carrier remains confident about the plane’s safety.

American Airlines, which flies 24 of the planes, said it has full confidence in the model.

There were 371 of the 737 MAX family jets in operation before this week’s groundings, according to Flightglobal. Around two-thirds of the fleet is now grounded, based on Reuters calculations.

The widening actions against the aircraft puts pressure on Boeing – the world’s biggest plane manufacturer – to prove the MAX planes are safe, and the company has said it is rolling out flight software updates by April that could address issues with a faulty sensor.

Source: South China Morning Post