Business World

Wednesday 20 March 2019

EU grounds Boeing 737 Max jets as safety fears grow after Ethiopian Airlines crash

Disaster: Kebebew Legesse, the mother of Ethiopian Airlines cabin crew Ayantu Girmay, mourns at the scene of the crash. Photo: REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Disaster: Kebebew Legesse, the mother of Ethiopian Airlines cabin crew Ayantu Girmay, mourns at the scene of the crash. Photo: REUTERS/Baz Ratner
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

All Boeing 737 Max aircraft have been suspended from flying within EU airspace, on the orders of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

The rare move to ground all of Boeing's new flagship model follows the fatal crash of Ethiopian Airways flight ET302 shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa on Sunday morning.

All 157 people on board were killed, including Irishman Micheál 'Mick' Ryan.

European authorities yesterday followed airline safety regulators in China, Indonesia and in Ethiopia in grounding the Boeing planes.

The crash in Ethiopia came five months after 189 people on board a Lion Air 737 Max flight in Indonesia died when it crashed into the Java Sea.

The EASA said they were "taking every step necessary to ensure the safety of passengers".

"The accident investigation is led by the Ethiopian Authorities with the support of the National Transportation Safety Board, as the aircraft was designed and built in the United States," an EASA spokesperson said.

Earlier the Irish Aviation Authority had followed the UK in announcing the 737 Max has been temporarily banned from flying into or out of Irish airspace.

There are 13 of the aircraft registered in Ireland, although they are understood to be owned mostly by leasing firms based here and deployed around the world.

Neither Aer Lingus nor Ryanair currently uses the model.

Norwegian Air, which flies from Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports to the US, does use the planes. It had temporarily suspends flights using its Boeing 737 Max planes before the EU ban came into force. "Following the decision by the relevant aviation regulatory bodies to temporarily suspend operations of Boeing 737 Max, Norwegian will not operate any flights with this aircraft type until further notice," the company said.

"We remain in close dialogue with the aviation authorities and Boeing, and follow their instructions and recommendations."

Norwegian has 18 737 Max models in a fleet that is mostly made up of 110 Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

They said in a statement: "The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has decided to temporarily suspend the operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft into and out of Irish airspace, in the light of the two fatal accidents involving the aircraft in recent months."

There are 387 of the 737 Max aircraft in service around the world, including 74 in the United States and 55 in Europe. Hundreds more are on order, including 135 by Ryanair.

Pressure to act is mounting on US air safety authorities - which are Seattle-based Boeing's domestic regulators.

Late on Monday, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had issued a "continued airworthiness notification" to assure operators of the plane that it was safe to fly. It said it was collecting data on the crash and keeping in contact with international civil aviation authorities and would take immediate action if it identified any safety issues.

The IAA said: "This decision has been taken based on ensuring the continued safety of passengers and flight crew, which is the IAA's number one priority."

Its temporary suspension came into affect at 3pm yesterday regardless of the US assurances.

"The IAA's decision has been made taking account of the unprecedented loss of two Boeing 737 Max in recent months," a spokesman said.

"The IAA has been closely monitoring the situation, 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 flights on Boeing 737 Max from any operator arriving, departing or overflying Irish airspace.

"During the temporary suspension, the IAA will continue to work closely with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and the manufacturer Boeing."

Irish Independent

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