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Tuesday 19 March 2019

USA latest to ground Boeing 737 Max aircraft

Families mourn victims of the Ethiopian air crash. Picture: Reuters
Families mourn victims of the Ethiopian air crash. Picture: Reuters
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

The US is the latest country to ground all Boeing 737 Max aircraft following Sunday's Ethiopian Airlines crash.

Last night, US President Donald Trump announced the US's Federal Aviation Authority was following the lead of Europe and countries around the world by grounding the 737 Max.

Mr Trump cited "new information" that had come to light in the ongoing investigation into incident. He did not elaborate on what this "information" was.

The decision to ground the aircraft "didn't have to be made but we thought it was the right decision", he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Irish passengers whose travel plans were disrupted after the aircraft was banned from Irish and European airspace are unlikely to get compensation.

The decision by authorities to restrict the aircraft based on safety concerns constitutes an "extraordinary circumstance", according to the Commission for Aviation Regulation.

"It's not the airline's fault in a sense, it's between the airline and the manufacturer," a spokesman said.

It means while passengers are entitled to alternative flights, meals and accommodation if necessary on an airline's account, the airline is unlikely to be liable to pay compensation.

Hundreds of Irish passengers of Norwegian Air have been affected, but the company refused to respond to questions from the Irish Independent about exactly how many.

The ban was introduced in the wake of two recent crashes, the second of which saw all 157 people, including Irish man Micheál Ryan, die when an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed on Sunday.

A Norwegian 737 Max was also forced to make an emergency landing in Iran in December following an issue with one of its engines.

Norwegian Air, which flies the Max 8 from Dublin, Cork, Belfast and Shannon airports, cancelled routes from Dublin to Providence, Rhode Island and Newburgh, New York.

It currently has a total of 18 of the Boeing model in its fleet.

The company yesterday transferred a Boeing 787 and its crew from London to Dublin in order to carry passengers to New York.

"In response to the instruction by the European aviation regulatory bodies to suspend operations of the Boeing 737 Max, Norwegian will temporarily deploy a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to operate US flights from Dublin Airport to support affected customers," a statement said.

"Norwegian will position the 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft and crew from London Gatwick to Dublin Airport this afternoon."

Boeing has said it has full confidence in the safety of the plane but the European Union Aviation Safety Agency issued an emergency airworthiness instruction.

Norwegian Air said yesterday it will seek compensation from Boeing for costs and lost revenue.

The Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed was making a rattling noise and trailed smoke and debris as it swerved above a field before hitting earth, according to witnesses.

Flight 302 took off from the Ethiopian capital on Sunday morning bound for Nairobi with passengers from more than 30 countries.

The pilot had requested permission to return to Addis Ababa, saying he was having problems.

"When it was hovering, fire was following its tail, then it tried to lift its nose," said witness Gadisa Benti.

Sunday's crash was strikingly similar to that of a Lion Air jet of the same Boeing model in Indonesia last year, killing 189 people.

Irish Independent

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