May 24, 2019
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European Union

EU joins growing list of authorities grounding Boeing 737 MAX jets

Cologne, Germany, Mar 12 (efe-epa).- The EU has grounded Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX jetliners days after a crash in Africa, the organization's aviation regulator said Tuesday.

A number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France, Australia, China and Singapore, have suspended use of the aircraft following Sunday's Ethiopian Airlines crash which killed all 157 occupants.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said the move was a "precautionary measure".

"In addition EASA has published a safety directive, effective as of 19:00 UTC, suspending all commercial flights performed by third-country operators into, within or out of the EU of the above mentioned models," a statement said.

The suspensions marked a departure by international regulators from the norm of following the guidance issued by the United States Federal Aviation Administration which has so far maintained that the aircraft is safe to fly.

Sunday’s crash of a relatively new plane happened less than five months after another new Boeing 737 MAX 8, operated by Indonesia's Lion Air, plunged into the Java Sea, heightening safety concerns about the model.

Investigators are continuing to scrutinize the factors that could have led to the disaster.

President of the United States Donald Trump said on Twitter that airplanes are "becoming far too complex to fly".

He wrote on Tuesday: "Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT."

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority suspended flights underlining a lack of information from the investigation into the Ethiopian Airlines crash, saying it "issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overlying UK airspace."

Shortly afterward, Germany’s Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer told television station n-tv that his country was also closing its airspace to Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.

Scheuer said safety was a priority, and “until all doubts are cleared up, I have ordered that German airspace be closed for the Boeing 737 Max with immediate effect.”

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) decided to "temporarily suspend the operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into and out of Irish airspace, in the light of the two fatal accidents involving the aircraft in recent months."

Boeing has so far delivered more than 370 MAX planes to 47 customers and US carriers, who are so far adhering to FAA guidance, have said they had no plans to ground flights.

Boeing lost $12.7 billion in market value on Monday and was losing again on late trading on Tuesday, highlighting how long suspensions could be costly for the Seattle-based manufacturer.

Airlines which have bought aircraft from Boeing could be entitled to compensation for loss of sales and potential repair costs, according to Phil Seymour, chief executive of aviation consulting firm IBA Group.

So far, scant information has emerged about the circumstances that led to the Ethiopian Airlines crash although the aircraft’s black boxes were located, with some analysts saying a final conclusion could take weeks.

Accident investigators have also yet to determine the causes of the Lion Air crash, but similarities in how the two jetliners plunged suddenly from the sky shortly after takeoff have alarmed experts.

Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority said it was temporarily suspending operations of all variants of the Boeing 737 MAX into and out of Singapore on Tuesday because of the two crashes.

South Korean and Indian regulators have required national carriers to conduct extra checks on 737 MAX aircraft.

South Korea said extra checks were needed to address public concern about the safety of the planes.

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