Speaking with reporters on a conference call, acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell said the grounding of the 737 Max 8 and 9 will remain in effect pending new information including from the flight data recorder and voice recorder.
“Since this accident occurred we were resolute that we would not take action until we had data,” Elwell said.
Elwell said the new data was “added fidelity — missing pieces that we did not have prior to today.” It aligned the Ethiopian flight data to the Lion Air incident.
Elwell declined to guess how long the grounding would last but he said he hoped to keep it “as short as possible.”
“I can’t and I don’t want to hazard a guess as to how long. My hope is that the FAA, the carriers, the manufacturer, that all parties will work very hard to make this grounding as short as possible so that these airplanes can get back up into the sky,” he said.
The global standoff over the airworthiness of Boeing Co.’s 737 Max jet intensified as U.S. regulators reiterated their support for the aircraft, even after the European Union and other authorities issued blanket bans.
Investigators are still trying to understand why an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 crashed near Addis Ababa on March 10, killing 157 people, less than five months after an identical Lion Air plane plunged into waters off Indonesia.
Hong Kong, Lebanon, Thailand impose temporary bans on the 737 Max. FAA repeats it sees no safety issue with Boeing 737 Max. European aviation authority grounds 737 Max flights across region. Boeing shares fell 6.2 percent in New York. Boeing CEO defends plane on call with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Where the Boeing 737 Max Is Grounded
Here are the latest developments (timestamps are local time in London):
China’s Clout (8:12 a.m.)
In grounding the 737 Max, centuries-old American allies including the U.K. and Australia broke convention by snubbing the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, an authority that has defined what’s airworthy — and what’s not — for decades. New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam on Wednesday became the latest countries to block the 737 Max, helping legitimize China’s early verdict on March 11 that the plane could be unsafe.
“The FAA’s credibility is being tested,” said Chad Ohlandt, a Rand Corp. senior engineer in Washington. “The Chinese want their regulatory agency to be considered a similar gold standard.”
Norwegian Air Shuttle expects Boeing to compensate it for revenue lost on account of the grounding of its 737 Max fleet, Reuters reports.
The 737 Max has been banned from Lebanese airport, airspace, NNA reports, while Thai authorities also followed suit.
Hong Kong will impose a temporary ban on Boeing 737 Max aircraft over its airspace from 6 p.m., the Civil Aviation Department said in a statement.
India Expands Blockade
India will bar all Boeing 737 Max planes from entering or transiting in its airspace, extending an earlier ban that applied only to its airlines. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation said the aircraft will be allowed to fly until 4 p.m. local time to enable foreign-registered jets to return to their home base and for planes operating locally to go to a maintenance facility for parking. Aviation ministry and airline officials will also meet at 4 p.m. local time, according to the ANI news agency.
Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Officer Tewolde GebreMariam said in an interview with CNN that there are “substantial” similarities with the Lion Air crash in October involving the same Boeing plane model. The Ethiopian Airlines pilot had “flight control problems” shortly before the crash, GebreMariam said. In November, Indonesian investigators found that the Lion Air pilots battled multiple malfunctions almost as soon as their flight began.
Vietnam Suspends Jets
Vietnam suspended all Boeing 737 Max jets of its airlines starting 10 a.m. local time Wednesday, and said it won’t grant any operation permits for the aircraft until further notice. VietJet Aviation JSC, which doesn’t fly any 737 Max planes now but has 200 of the jets on order, will make a decision on its plans to use the aircraft after U.S. aviation officials finish their investigation, the Vietnamese airline said in a statement.
Russia’s S7 Grounds Planes
S7 Airlines suspended Boeing 737 Max flights from 00:01 Moscow time Wednesday until it receives detailed information on the latest crash, the carrier said on its website. The airline said it has two 737 Max planes in its fleet of 96 and the suspension won’t affect its schedule.
Sunwing Grounds Flights
Sunwing Airlines said it’s temporarily suspending its four Boeing 737 Max 8 jets “for evolving commercial reasons unrelated to safety including airspace restrictions being imposed by some of our partner destinations.” The carrier is in the process of revisiting its flying schedule to accommodate the temporary removal of Max aircraft from service.
Blackbox to U.K. or U.S.?
Ethiopia wanted to send the flight-data and cockpit voice recorders to the U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch to recover the data, causing U.S. investigators to hold intense behind-the-scenes talks to bring the remains to America, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. U.S. officials wanted to have the recorders sent to the National Transportation Safety Board on grounds that American government experts would provide the most reliable and accurate data downloads, according to the report. The U.S. hadn’t received a final decision as of late Tuesday, according to the Journal.
Canada Holds Off
Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau told lawmakers he won’t hesitate to take action on Boeing if needed, but said it’s too early to determine the cause of the Ethiopian Airlines crash. “Our responsibility is to stay clear-minded to navigate this evolving situation,” he said, according to a statement obtained by Bloomberg.
Federal Aviation Administration acting chief Daniel Elwell said the agency continues to closely monitor an investigation into the fatal crash in Ethiopia and will take action if necessary. No other civil aviation authorities have given the FAA data that would warrant action, the agency said.
New Zealand Ban
New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority suspended Boeing 737 Max flights to or from the country after discussions with other authorities including the FAA. Only Fiji Airways flies the aircraft to New Zealand.
Gulf Hub Ban
The United Arab Emirates Civil Aviation Authority banned Boeing 737 Max jets from its airspace, state-run WAM reported. This means the aircraft is excluded from another major global transit hub, following a similar move by Singapore.
Boeing Call With Trump
Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg defended the safety of the 737 Max to U.S. President Donald Trump in a telephone call on Tuesday shortly after the president criticized modern airplanes for becoming too complicated, two people familiar with the matter said.
After India also banned the 737 Max, the country’s aviation minister said he’ll hold an emergency meeting to prepare contingency plans to minimize passenger disruption. Indian carriers SpiceJet Ltd. and Jet Airways India Ltd. have a combined fleet of about 20 of the planes altogether, with firm orders for more than 260 in total.
The European Union’s aviation authority suspended all flight of the 737 Max 8 and larger 737 Max 9 in Europe. The agency, which usually goes along with the FAA, said it was acting out of an abundance of caution and out of concern for passenger safety.
Ethiopian Airlines pilots got additional training on the Boeing 737 Max after the Lion Air crashed.
“We have installed the additional training procedures in our manuals and in our simulations,” Tewolde GebreMariam, Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, told reporters in a broadcast on state-controlled ETV. Tewolde said certain elements of the technical investigation need to be sent abroad for analysis.