Update: the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is now effectively grounded worldwide

southwest boeing 737 max 8 bill abbott flickr

Update, 13 March 10pm: The FAA on Wednesday “ordered the temporary grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft” — that’s the 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 9 — backtracking on its previous stance that the plane is in fact “airworthy”.

“The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today. This evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to FAA this morning, led to this decision,” the FAA continued in a statement.

This effectively means that these planes are not allowed to operate, regardless of the airline or airspace.

Boeing too announced that it “supports” the FAA’s decision.

According to the latest data from Flightradar24, only two planes — both Southwest Airlines — are in the air at the time of writing.

Read the full emergency order here.

Original article: The United States and Canada remain the two largest of the few remaining countries still operating the Boeing 737 MAX 8.

On Tuesday, a number of countries and airlines joined Ethiopian Airlines in grounding the aircraft, including India, the entire European Union and the UK.

This comes after an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 crashed en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa on 10 March, killing 157 people. Ethiopia subsequently grounded its four remaining 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

In spite of this incident, as well as the downing of Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018, the United States’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has reiterated that the plane itself is “airworthy”.

“Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft,” the FAA continued in a tweeted statement.

At present, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Air Canada and WestJet are operating the plane in North America. Other carriers, including United, are also operating the larger variant, the 737 MAX 9.

In Africa, a lone 737 MAX 8 last took to the air on Tuesday operated by Mauritania Airlines, a carrier with a fleet of just six planes in total. South African carrier Comair grounded its lone 737 MAX 8, which was delivered less than a month ago.

However, public outcry against the plane is largely outweighing any reasoning from the FAA and Boeing.

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday chimed in with his thoughts, likening flying a modern plane to being a “computer scientist” from MIT.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane,” he added.

US Senator Mitt Romney “with an abundance of caution” urged the FAA to ground the planes.

Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren also urged Trump to take action and forget about “Boeing’s profits”.

Even with the plane still operating over North America, FlightRadar24 notes just how few of these planes remain in operation.

Investigations of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines incidents remain open and unresolved, however the latter’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder have been recovered.

According to the New York Times, these will likely be processed “overseas”.

Feature image: Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8, Bill Abbott via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0, resized)

Andy Walker, former editor


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