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Boeing might face costs for grounded 737 MAX 8 planes; FAA still defending jets  1 Month ago

Source:   USA Today  

The flight path data of two Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes that crashed showed similarities, the FAA said Wednesday as the United States became the last nation to ground the popular planes worldwide.  

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order three days after an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash that killed all 157 on board.

“The FAA is ordering the temporary grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory. 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 said.

Daniel Elwell, acting head of the FAA, said the data linked the behavior and flight path of the Ethiopian Airline jet to data from the crash of a Lion Air jet in October.

“Evidence we found on the ground made it even more likely that the flight path was very close to Lion Air’s,” Elwell said Wednesday.

Before the FAA announcement, President Donald Trump issued an emergency order halting flights of the MAX 8 and MAX 9. 

The United States had been under pressure to join nations worldwide in grounding the planes after concerns mounted that the Ethiopian crash was similar to one in October. Wednesday, Canada joined the list of countries that halted the flights.

Trump said planes in the air would complete their flights but no more would take off. He said airlines were notified.

Boeing said it supported the move.

"Boeing has determined – out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft's safety – to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of all 371 MAX aircraft," Boeing said in a statement.

The MAX fleet began flying two years ago and includes 74 domestic planes. Airlines have ordered more than 4,500 of the jetliners, the newest version of the 737 and best-selling airliner ever. 

Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau cited newly obtained satellite data that he said show a possible similarity to the Ethiopian crash and the Lion Air crash. 

"This is not conclusive, but it is something that points in that direction,” Garneau said. "It could be something else."

At least one airline wants compensation from Boeing for the cost of parking the jets. Norwegian Air Shuttles spokeswoman Tonje Naess said the carrier, which flies 18 of the planes, should not face "any financial burden for a brand new aircraft that will not to be used." It was not immediately clear what those costs might be or what Boeing might be pressed to pay.

The FAA stood by the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX on Tuesday.

Records show that federal aviation authorities received at least 11 reports concerning perceived safety problems with the aircraft. Two pilots reported their planes unexpectedly pitched nose down after they engaged autopilot following departure. Another pilot reported a “temporary level off” triggered by the aircraft automation.

The pilot of a flight in November 2018 called part of the aircraft’s flight manual “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient.”

In the USA, Southwest and American fly the plane, and both expressed confidence in their fleets.

The MAX 8 that crashed Sunday was 4 months old and minutes into a Nairobi-bound flight from Addis Ababa when it slammed into a field. In October, a Lion Air plane of the same model crashed into the Java Sea minutes after departing from Jakarta, Indonesia. None of the 189 passengers and crew survived.

Both flights crashed after drastic speed fluctuations during ascent. Both pilots made ill-fated efforts to return to their airport of origin after takeoff. The FAA said it expects to require Boeing to complete MAX 8 flight control system enhancements – prompted by the Lion Air crash – by month's end.

Some members of Congress and two unions representing flight attendants had called on the FAA to ground the planes.

The plane involved in Sunday's crash was delivered to the airline in November, had flown 1,200 hours and had undergone a maintenance check Feb. 4. The pilot, who had more than 8,000 hours of flight experience, had issued a distress call and tried to return to the airport.

The black box voice and data recorders were found, and airline CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told CNN the pilots told air traffic control they were having “flight control problems."

Ethiopian Airlines spokesman Asrat Begashaw said the equipment will be shipped to an undisclosed European country for analysis.

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