Several airlines including Ethiopian Airlines have suspended their fleets of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane, following Sunday’s crash that killed all 157 people on board.
An Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet bound for Kenya’s capital Nairobi came down minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all on board.
While investigators work to find the cause of the crash, and have since recovered the black box with both the cockpit voice recorder and digital flight data, the spotlight has so far been placed on Boeing, the world’s biggest plane maker.
Boeing commiserated with the victims of the crash, in a statement on Sunday.
“A Boeing technical team will be traveling to the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and US National Transportation Safety Board,” the statement said.
In this article, we highlight 10 issues surrounding Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 model, that has now crashed twice within a space of six months.
1 – Boeing 737, a best-selling jetliner
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 model is one of the latest versions of the 737 jetliner, that was introduced in 1967, and has since produced over 10,000 units.
Here’s a timeline of the fourth generation of the 737 jetliner;
- Launched on August 30, 2011
- Performed first flight on January 29, 2016
- Gained U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification on March 8, 2017
- First delivery to Indonesian-owned Malindo Air on May 6, 2017
- Malindo Air placed the MAX 8 into service on May 22, 2017
Boeing has since received over 5,000 firm orders for the 737 MAX planes and delivered 350 (January 2019).
The 737 MAX series, offered in four variants, is re-engined with more efficient CFM International LEAP-1B powerplants, aerodynamic improvements including distinctive split-tip winglets and airframe modifications.
2 – Crashes dent Max 8, Boeing credibility
Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash was the second of the 737 MAX 8, the latest version of Boeing’s workhorse narrowbody jet that first entered service in 2017.
In October, a 737 MAX 8 operated by Indonesian budget carrier Lion Air crashed 13 minutes after take-off from Jakarta on a domestic flight, killing all 189 passengers and crew on board.
“Given that two accidents both involved newly delivered Boeing 737-8 planes and happened during take-off phase, they have some degree of similarity,” said China’s aviation regulator on Monday, as it ordered the grounding of nearly 100 Boeing Co 737 MAX 8 aircraft operated by its airlines.
The 737 MAX’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) has come under scrutiny for faulty angle-of-attack readings in the Lion Air accident.
Flight tracking service Flightradar 24 reported that the Ethiopian Airlines flight had ‘unstable vertical speed after take-off’.
The Lion Air accident occured two months after the plane was delivered while the Ethiopian Airlines crash occured nearly four months after the delivery of the plane.
3 – Airlines suspend operations of Boeing 737 MAX 8
Following the second plane crash of the Max 8 model, several airlines including Ethiopian Airlines and Cayman Airways grounded their fleets of that particular plane.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) on Monday said all Chinese airlines had to suspend their use of the 737 MAX 8 by 6 p.m. (1000 GMT).
Indonesia on Monday also announced that it would temporarily halt ground Boeing Co 737 MAX 8 fleets operating in the country for inspection. The inspection is set to start on Tuesday (March 12), with national carrier Garuda Indonesia now operating one MAX 8 and budget carrier Lion Air 10 planes.
South Korea is conducting an emergency inspection on Eastar Jet’s two 737 MAX 8 jets, a transport ministry official said.
India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said on Monday it is reviewing safety issues related to Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft operating in the country. Full service carrier Jet Airways Ltd and low-cost carrier SpiceJet Ltd own and operate these aircraft in India.
4 – In defence of the Boeing 737 MAX 8
Several other airlines however reamined confident in the services of the 737 line, which the world’s best selling modern passenger aircraft and viewed as one of the industry’s most reliable.
U.S. operators Southwest Airlines Co and American Airlines Group Inc said they remained fully confident in the aircraft and were closely monitoring the investigation.
Singapore Airlines Ltd, whose regional arm SilkAir operates the 737 MAX 8, said it was monitoring the situation closely, but its planes would operate as scheduled.
Fiji Airways and flydubai said they were confident in the airworthiness of their 737 MAX 8 fleets.
Korean Air Lines said there were no changes to its plans to order 30 737 MAX 8 jets, with the first expected to arrive in April.
Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd said it was too early to comment on the Ethiopian accident or its effect on the 30 737 MAX 8 jets it has on order, while Air Niugini, which has ordered four, said it had “full confidence” in the Boeing product.
5 – Counting the cost, the numbers
Boeing shares slid almost 10 percent in early trading on Monday. The move, if maintained through normal trading hours, would be the biggest fall in Boeing’s stock in nearly two decades, halting a surge that has seen it triple in value in just over three years to a record high of $446 last week.
Here’s a quick summary of the Boeing 787 MAX 8 numbers that count;
- 5,011 orders (January 2019)
- 350 units delivered
- 2 plane crashes
- 189 people killed in Lion Air crash (October 2018)
- 157 people killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash (March 2019)
- At least 114 planes have been grounded following Sunday’s crash. (97 in China, 4 of Ethiopian, 1 of Garuda, 10 of Lion Air and 2 of Cayman)
- Pilot of ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines flight, Yared Getachew, who was a joint Ethiopian-Kenyan national had more than 8,000 hours of flying experience.
- Lion Air pilot, Bhavye Suneja, an Indian national, had more than 6,000 flight hours.