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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Officials from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China pray Tuesday at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff Sunday near Bishoftu, Ethiopia.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 1:00 am

US won't ground Boeing jetliner

More countries ban 737 Max 8 after fatal crashes

Associated Press

HEJERE, Ethiopia – Much of the world, including the entire European Union, grounded the Boeing jetliner involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash or banned it from their airspace, leaving the United States on Tuesday as one of the few remaining operators of the plane involved in two deadly accidents in just five months.

The European Aviation Safety Agency took steps to keep the Boeing 737 Max 8 out of the air, joining Asian and Middle Eastern governments and carriers that also gave in to safety concerns in the aftermath of Sunday's crash, which killed all 157 people on board.

Referring to the Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people last year, European regulators said that “similar causes may have contributed to both events.”

British regulators indicated possible trouble with a reportedly damaged flight data recorder, saying they based their decision on the fact that they did not “sufficient information” from the recorder.

Turkish Airlines, Oman Air, Norwegian Air Shuttle and South Korean airline Eastar Jet were among the latest carriers to halt use of the Boeing model. Ireland, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia and Singapore suspended all flights into or out of their cities.

A Turkish Airlines official said two U.K.-bound planes returned to Istanbul after British airspace was closed to the aircraft. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

U.S.-based Boeing has said it has no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies and does not intend to issue new recommendations about the aircraft to customers. Boeing's CEO Dennis Muilenburg also spoke with President Donald Trump and reiterated that the 737 Max 8 is safe, the company said. Its technical team, meanwhile, joined American, Israeli, Kenyan and other aviation experts in the investigation led by Ethiopian authorities.

The Federal Aviation Administration also backed the jet's airworthiness and said it was reviewing all available data. It said it expects Boeing will soon complete improvements to an automated anti-stall system suspected of contributing to the deadly crash of another new Boeing 737 Max 8 in October.

“Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft,” acting FAA Administrator Daniel K. Elwell said in a statement. “Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action.”

Some U.S. airlines expressed support for the Boeing model, and American Airlines and Southwest continued flying them. A vice president for American, the world's biggest carrier, which has 24 Max 8s, said they had “full confidence in the aircraft.”

Safety experts cautioned against drawing too many comparisons too soon with the Lion Air crash in October. But others in the U.S. began pressing for action.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents more than 26,000 flight attendants at American Airlines, called on CEO Doug Parker to “strongly consider grounding these planes until an investigation can be performed.”

Consumer Reports called on airlines and the FAA to ground the jets until a thorough safety investigation is complete.

Even Trump weighed in, tweeting that additional “complexity creates danger” in modern aircraft and hinders pilots from making “split second decisions” to ensure passengers' safety.

He did not specifically mention the crashes but said, “I don't know about you, but I don't want Albert Einstein to be my pilot.”