Boeing grounds crash fleet as ‘alarm bells ring’
Federal Aviation Administration has found new evidence concerning Ethiopian disaster
Boeing has grounded its entire 371-strong fleet of 737 Max aircraft after investigators uncovered new evidence at the scene of the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it had found fresh clues including newly refined satellite data. Crucially, a number of similarities have been found between Sunday’s crash and a Lion Air flight in October, which claimed 189 lives.
Dan Elwell, acting administrator at the FAA, said: “It became clear to all parties that the track of the Ethiopian Airlines [flight] was very close and behaved very similarly to the Lion Air flight.”
He added that “the evidence we found on the ground made it even more likely the flight path was very close to Lion Air’s”.
The BBC says that these words, which went beyond a precautionary tone, “will have set alarm bells ringing at Boeing's headquarters in Chicago”.
Boeing said that it “continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max” but that following consultation with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board it had decided to ground the flights “out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft's safety”.
Dennis Muilenburg, president, chief executive and chairman of Boeing, said: “We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”
Commenting on the developments, Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, told the BBC that “lives must come first always,” adding that “a brand is at stake as well, and that brand is not just Boeing - it’s America”.
The Ethiopian Airlines crash in Addis Ababa killed 157 people on Sunday, prompting countries including the UK, China, India and Australia to suspend the 737 Max.
Norwegian Air has announced it will seek compensation from Boeing after grounding its 737 Max 8 planes.
In a statement released yesterday, the discount airline said it expects Boeing to cover costs and lost revenue resulting from the temporary removal of 18 planes from its fleet.
“Many have asked questions about how this affects our financial situation,” said company founder and chief executive Bjoern Kjos.
“It’s quite obvious that we will not take the cost related to the new aircraft that we have to park temporarily,” he added. “We will send this bill to those who produce this aircraft.”