NEWS FLASH DESK
US aerospace giant Boeing said Thursday it was suspending deliveries of its top-selling 737 MAX as French
investigators took delivery of the black boxes from the Ethiopian Airlines
crash that killed all 157 passengers and crew.
The MAX has been grounded worldwide following the disaster — the second
involving the model in five months — and the fallout has left the company,
regulators and airlines scrambling to respond.
“We are pausing the delivery of the 737 MAX until we come up with a
solution,” a Boeing spokesman said, adding that “we are going to continue the
production, but we are assessing our capacities.”
France’s BEA air safety agency confirmed it has received the black box
recorders from the plane, which was just four months old and crashed minutes
after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday.
Starting Friday, BEA investigators will try to retrieve information from
the cockpit voice and flight data recorders, which were damaged in the
Thousands of miles (kilometers) away, distraught families were demanding
answers as they visited the deep black crater where the plane smashed into a
field outside the capital, disintegrating on impact.
Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier, sent the black boxes to
France because it does not have the equipment to analyze the data.
The information that they contain helps explain 90 percent of all crashes,
according to aviation experts.
On Wednesday, US authorities said new evidence showed similarities between
the Ethiopia crash and that of a Lion Air flight in Indonesia in October that
killed 189 people.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said findings from the crash
site near Addis Ababa and “newly refined satellite data” warranted “further
investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents.”
– Boeing shares hit –
An FAA emergency order grounded 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft until further
notice, effectively taking the aircraft out of the skies globally.
The move came after a growing number of airlines and countries had already
decided not to fly the planes or ban them from their airspace until it is
determined there are no safety issues.
US President Donald Trump told reporters the “safety of the American people
and all peoples is our paramount concern.”
FAA acting chief Daniel Elwell said the agency had been “working
tirelessly” to find the cause of the accident but faced delays because of the
damage to the flight data recorders.
The new information shows “the track of that airplane was close enough to
the track of the Lion Air flight” to warrant the grounding of the airplanes
so more information can be gathered to determine if there is a link, Elwell
said Wednesday on CNBC.
Boeing’s shares have fallen 12 percent in the days after the crash in
Ethiopia, wiping out nearly $30 billion in value.
The MAX series is Boeing’s fastest-selling model, but it is still
relatively new with fewer than 500 in service.
There are 74 registered in the United States and 387 in use worldwide with
59 carriers, according to the FAA.
– Pilots’ concerns –
The accounts of the recent crashes were echoed in concerns registered by US
pilots on how the MAX 8 behaves.
At least four American pilots complained following the Lion Air crash that
the aircraft would suddenly pitch downward shortly after takeoff, according
to documents reviewed by AFP on the Aviation Safety Reporting System, a
voluntary incident database maintained by NASA.
In two anonymous reports on flights just after the Lion Air disaster,
pilots disconnected the autopilot and corrected the plane’s trajectory.
It was unclear if US transport authorities review the database or
investigated the incidents. However, the FAA said this week it had ordered
Boeing to update its flight software and training.
Questions about the Lion Air crash have honed in on an automated stall
prevention system, the MCAS, designed to automatically point the plane’s nose
downwards if it is in danger of stalling.
According to the flight data recorder, the pilots of Lion Air Flight 610
struggled to control the aircraft as the MCAS repeatedly pushed the nose down
The Ethiopian Airlines pilots reported similar difficulties before their
aircraft plunged to the ground.
According to The New York Times, air traffic controllers observed the
Ethiopian Airlines plane “oscillating up and down by hundreds of feet” prior
to the crash.
Speaking in a “panicky voice,” the doomed aircraft’s captain requested
permission to return to the airport almost immediately after takeoff as the
plane “accelerated to abnormal speed,” the newspaper reported Thursday,
citing a person who had reviewed the air traffic communications.
“Break break, request back to home,” the Times quoted the pilot as saying
just prior to the crash. “Request vector for landing.”
Boeing was criticized after the Lion Air crash for allegedly failing to
adequately inform 737 pilots about the functioning of the stall prevention
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said the doomed flight’s captain
Yared Mulugeta Getachew, 29, was an experienced aviator with more than 8,000