A Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed in Ethiopia killing everyone on board. The crash of the Ethiopian Airlines plane marks the second deadliest accident involving a Boeing 737 in the past five months. So is there a problem with this particular model?
A Norwegian airline said Wednesday it will seek compensation from Boeing for costs associated with grounding its 737 MAX 8 planes as Boeing and the FAA steadfastly defended the safety of the aircrafts.
The demand from Norwegian Air Shuttles reflects the growing issues facing Boeing after two of the hot-selling jets crashed in the last five months, killing more than 300 people. More than two dozen airlines have grounded the 737 Max models.
Thailand, Egypt and Lebanon were among countries banning the planes from their airspace Wednesday, joining a long list of nations that includes the entire European Union.
The stakes are high: Airlines have ordered 4,661 more of the planes – the newest version of the 737 and best-selling airliner ever. The Boeing 737 MAX fleet already includes 74 flown by domestic carriers, among almost 400 worldwide.
Norwegian Air Shuttles spokeswoman Tonje Naess said the carrier, which flies 18 of the planes, “should not have any financial burden for a brand new aircraft that will not to be used.”
It was not immediately clear what those costs might be or what Boeing might be pressed to pay. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration stood by the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX on Tuesday, saying it hasn’t found any issues at fault with the jetliner that would merit a grounding order, even as Britain, France and Germany joined the list of countries banning it from their skies.
“Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft,” said Acting FAA Administrator Daniel K. Elwell in a statement.
He said the FAA continues to investigate the aircraft in the wake of Sunday’s crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 that killed all 157 aboard. Elwell said the agency will “take immediate and appropriate action” if issues emerge.
Boeing stressed its “full confidence in the safety” of the planes.
“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,” Boeing said in a statement.
American pilots, however, previously have complained to authorities about perceived safety problems with the same aircraft.
From the flight manual to automation: Why pilots have complained about Boeing’s 737 MAX 8
Two pilots reported their aircraft unexpectedly pitched nose down after engaging autopilot following departure. Another pilot reported a “temporary level off” triggered by the aircraft automation. The captain of a November 2018 flight called part of the aircraft’s flight manual “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient.”
Records show that federal aviation authorities received at least 11 reports concerning the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in 2018.
The MAX 8 was 4 months old and minutes into a Nairobi-bound flight from Addis Ababa on Sunday when it nosedived into a field. In October, a Lion Air plane of the same model crashed into the Java Sea – 12 minutes after departing from the airport in Jakarta, Indonesia. None of the 189 passengers and crew survived.
Earlier in the day before Elwell issued his statement, the FAA said “external reports are drawing similarities between this accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident,” but it added “this investigation has just begun, and to date, we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions.”
The agency said it expects to require Boeing to complete MAX 8 flight control system enhancements – prompted by the Lion Air crash – by month’s end.
China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Oman and Australia are among other nations that grounded the planes. Turkish Airlines, Polish carrier LOT and Norwegian Air Shuttle joined more than two dozen airlines parking their MAX 8s Tuesday.
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There has been pushback in the USA as well.
Transport Workers Union Local 556 represents flight attendants on Southwest Airlines, which flies 34 of the planes. TWU issued a statement saying the planes should be grounded pending further investigation. “People must always be put over profits,” the union tweeted.
The Association of Flight Attendants, which says it has nearly 50,000 members and is part of the Communications Workers of America, called for grounding the planes.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, urged the FAA to halt the planes “out of an abundance of caution for the flying public” until safety can be assured. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also called for the FAA to ground the MAX 8.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in joining the growing chorus, said he would hold a hearing into the causes of the crashes as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation and Space.
If you’re booked on a Boeing 737 Max should you should switch planes?
The plane was delivered to the airline in November, had flown 1,200 hours and had undergone a maintenance check Feb. 4. The pilot, who had more than 8,000 hours of flight experience, had issued a distress call and tried to return to the airport.
The “black box” voice and data recorders were found, raising hopes that investigators would soon learn more details of the crash. Airline CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told CNN the pilots told air traffic control they were having “flight control problems” before the crash.
Southwest and American fly the plane, and both expressed confidence in their fleets. Southwest, which has 34 of the planes and is adding more, said on Twitter that the airline had flown 31,000 flights on 737 MAX planes and plans on “operating those aircraft going forward.”
Contributing: Bart Jansen, Gus Garcia-Roberts, Steve Reilly and Alison Young
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