This page uses content from Wikipedia and is licensed under CC BY-SA.
Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in Boeing livery (July 2016)
|Date||March 11, 2019– ongoing (8 days)|
|Cause||Crashing of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610, causing 346 fatalities within five months.|
In March 2019, the Boeing 737 MAX passenger airliner was grounded by aviation authorities and airlines worldwide following two crashes within 5 months that killed all 346 people aboard both aircraft. On October 29, 2018, Lion Air Flight 610, a 737 MAX 8, crashed into the Java Sea twelve minutes after takeoff with 189 passengers and crew. On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, another MAX 8, crashed six minutes after takeoff with 157 passengers and crew.
On March 11, 2019 at 09:50 AM Beijing time, China's Civil Aviation Administration became the first regulatory authority in the world to ground its 737 MAX 8 aircraft. A few hours later, on March 11, 2019 at 07:08 AM Ethiopian Time, Ethiopian Airlines grounded its 737 MAX 8 fleet. Shortly after, Indonesia, Mongolia, Singapore and other countries rapidly followed suit, either voluntarily or by order of local aviation regulatory authorities. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration initially declined to ground the aircraft against substantial pressure, then announced on March 13 that it would do so, leaving only Panama still flying the planes, until its aviation authority became the last to ground their fleet. Several countries not served by the 737 MAX fleet imposed an airspace ban for the aircraft, effectively barring newly produced aircraft from leaving the factory. The worldwide fleet of 737 MAX aircraft at the time of the FAA grounding was 387.
In each accident, the aircraft involved was less than four months old. The FAA and Transport Canada Civil Aviation stated that satellite tracking data showed similar flight profiles that indicated both aircraft rapidly dived soon after takeoff. Both pilots radioed their intention to return to the airport. The FAA said a "possibility of a shared cause" existed. Attention quickly focused on an automated anti-stall flight control system ("MCAS") newly introduced on the 737 MAX.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspector General opened an investigation into the FAA's approval of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft series; the probe focuses on potential failures in the FAA's safety-review process. The day after the Ethiopian Airlines crash, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena on behalf of the U.S. Justice Department for documents related to development of the 737 MAX.
The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was developed for the 737 MAX to prevent stalls in flaps-retracted, low-speed, nose-up flight. The MCAS uses airspeed and other sensor data to make an attempt at computing when a dangerous condition has developed and then trims the aircraft nose down.
Boeing 737 MAX aircraft have engines mounted higher and further forward than previous 737 models. According to The Air Current, "the relocated engines and the refined nacelle shape" cause an upward pitching moment. In order to pass Part 25 certification requirements, Boeing employed the MCAS to automatically apply nose-down trim when the aircraft is in steep turns or in low-speed, flaps-retracted flight. When the angle of attack exceeds a limit that depends on airspeed and altitude, the system activates without notice to the pilot. The system is temporarily deactivated when a pilot trims the aircraft using a switch on the yoke.
The system is sensitive to failure of angle-of-attack (AOA) sensors mounted outside the aircraft. The FAA and Boeing made the AOA Disagree alert an optional feature for the 737 MAX, deciding it was not critical for safe operation. Following the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 soon after takeoff, for which several technical experts implicated the MCAS, Boeing announced a planned software upgrade that notifies pilots of a sensor failure. It will be deployed to aircraft operators "in the coming weeks," the company said on March 11, 2019.
On October 29, 2018, Lion Air Flight 610, a scheduled domestic flight operated by the Indonesian airline Lion Air from Soekarno–Hatta International Airport in Jakarta to Depati Amir Airport in Pangkal Pinang, crashed into the Java Sea 12 minutes after takeoff. All 189 passengers and crew were killed in the accident.
On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a scheduled international passenger flight operated by Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, crashed six minutes after takeoff near Bishoftu, killing all 157 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft.
Initial reports indicated that the Flight 302 pilot struggled to control the airplane in a manner similar to circumstances of the Lion Air crash. A stabilizer trim jackscrew found in the wreckage of Ethiopian flight 302 was set to put the aircraft into a dive. Experts suggested this evidence further pointed to MCAS as at fault in the crash. Ethiopia’s transportation minister, Dagmawit Moges said that initial data from the recovered flight data recorder of Ethiopian flight 302 shows "clear similarities" with the crash of Lion Air flight 610.
In addition to the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, Boeing 737 MAX pilots in the United States registered several complaints about the way the jet performed in flight, including reports that pilots in the United States may have experienced similar issues to what happened in the Lion Air crash. Several reports were filed in the Aviation Safety Reporting System in November 2018, including one where the captain "expressed concern that some systems such as the MCAS are not fully described in the aircraft Flight Manual."
On March 13, 2019, it emerged that pilots on at least two 2018 flights in the U.S. filed safety concerns after the nose of a 737 MAX pitched down suddenly when they engaged the autopilot. In response, the FAA made a statement, "Some of the reports reference possible issues with the autopilot/autothrottle, which is a separate system from MCAS, and/or acknowledge the problems could have been due to pilot error." MCAS only activates if the autopilot is turned off. Boeing had advised pilots to disengage autopilot in nose-down incidents, though MCAS initiates nose-down in response to stall incidents.
On 17 March 2019, the Seattle Times stated that concerns about the flawed certification of the MCAS system had already been raised on 6 March 2019, five days before the Air Ethiopia crash. The concerns (of unnamed current and former engineers directly involved with the evaluations or familiar with Boeing's safety analysis) were that:
The Seattle Times stated that they had still been awaiting an answer to these concerns, when the second crash of Flight 302 occurred.
About 30 of the 737 MAX aircraft were flying in U.S. airspace when the FAA grounding order was announced. The airplanes were allowed to continue to their destinations and were then grounded. In Europe, several flights were diverted when grounding orders were issued. For example, an Israeli-bound Norwegian Airlines 737 MAX aircraft returned to Stockholm, and two Turkish Airlines MAX aircraft flying to Britain, one to Gatwick Airport south of London and the other to Birmingham, turned around without landing and flew back to Turkey. Relocating aircraft grounded in the U.S. to a service facility can be performed under an FAA special flight permit, also known as a "ferry" permit, and flights might be subject to certain restrictions, the most obvious being no passengers, but may also require additional pre-flight inspection.
In its first public statement after the second crash, the company said: "Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team. A Boeing technical team will be traveling to the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and United States National Transportation Safety Board."
Subsequently, in response to the grounding of the 737 MAX by non-U.S. countries and airlines, Boeing stated: "We have engaged our customers and regulators on concerns they may have — and would refer you to them to discuss their operations and decisions. Safety is our number one priority and we are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved. The investigation is in its early stages, but at this point, based on the information available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators."
On March 11, Boeing announced that it had been working on upgrades to the MCAS flight control software, cockpit displays, operation manuals and crew training. Boeing said the upgrades were partly in response to the Lion Air crash, but not linked to the Ethiopian Airlines crash, and were to be deployed in coming weeks and to be made mandatory by an FAA Airworthiness Directive. The FAA stated it anticipated clearing the software update by March 25, 2019, allowing Boeing to distribute it to the grounded fleets.
On March 11, Boeing issued a statement saying that pilots can always use trim to override the flight control law, and that both the Flight Crew Operations Manual and the November 6 bulletin detail procedures for handling incorrect angle-of-attack readings. In the 737 Flight Crew Operations Manual Quick Reference Handbook, the trim instructions are under the MAX 8 aircraft runaway stabilizer checklist and filed under "additional information".  Based on satellite tracking data, aviation experts believe the MCAS system may have been deployed erroneously during both crashes. On March 12, Boeing announced that it had been working on a flight control software upgrade for the 737 MAX fleet, partly in response to the Lion Air crash, that includes updates to the MCAS flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training. The upgrade is to be deployed in "the coming weeks", and is expected to be made mandatory by April by an FAA airworthiness directive.
On March 13, in response to the FAA grounding the MAX aircraft, Boeing released another statement: "Boeing continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. However, after consultation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and aviation authorities and its customers around the world, 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 371 737 MAX aircraft."
On March 14, Boeing confirmed continued production of the 737 MAX series aircraft but halting deliveries to its customers.
As countries and airlines outside the U.S. began grounding their aircraft, the FAA issued a “continued airworthiness notification” to all global 737 MAX operators, stating that, to date, it had no evidence from the crashes to justify regulatory action regarding the aircraft. Several western media outlets, including the Financial Times, New York Times, Fox news, and CNBC, questioned China's motives for grounding the aircraft by suggesting the action was either "politically motivated" or that China was "potentially benefiting from the grounding".
Following a tweet on March 12 from United States President Donald Trump that "Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better." Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg spoke with and provided assurances to Trump that the aircraft was safe.
On March 13, with mounting pressure following the grounding of the aircraft by Canada's transportation, Trump met Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Acting Administrator of the FAA Daniel Elwell, and Muilenburg and agreed to ground the aircraft. "The FAA is preparing to make an announcement very shortly regarding the new information and physical evidence that we've received from the Ethiopia crash site and from other locations and through a couple of other complaints," Trump announced.
The government has faced questions about the lack of a permanent administrator at the FAA since January 2018, two years of staff and budget cuts at the agency, and the recent government shutdown that delayed approval of a software upgrade for the 737 MAX after the Lion Air crash. The FAA responded that it is "under the strong leadership" of its acting head, and Elwell said the shutdown "did not cause any delay in work on the software." The 737 MAX controversy shed more light on Boeing's political influence in Washington, including lobbying efforts, donations to lawmakers and ties between government and industry.
United States Senators Elizabeth Warren, Mitt Romney, Dianne Feinstein, Ted Cruz, Roger Wicker and Richard Blumenthal called for the FAA to temporarily ground all 737 MAX 8 jets. Ted Cruz and Roger Wicker announced their plans to hold a hearing at the United States Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security "to investigate these crashes, determine their contributing factors, and ensure that the United States aviation industry remains the safest in the world." Elizabeth Warren accused the Trump administration of protecting Boeing, saying: "The Boeing 737 MAX 8 is a major driver of Boeing profits. In the coming weeks and months, Congress should hold hearings on whether an administration that famously refused to stand up to Saudi Arabia to protect Boeing arms sales has once again put lives at risk for the same reason."
United States Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who has the authority to suspend the 737 MAX 8, said that "If the FAA identifies an issue that affects safety, the department will take immediate and appropriate action." On March 12, Chao with her staff flew on a Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8 from Austin, Texas, to Washington, D.C., in an apparent act of support of the Boeing Company.
On March 13, Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau reversed his decision not to ground the aircraft and banned all 737 MAX 8/9 aircraft from Canadian airspace. He earlier had said he would board 737 MAX 8 "without hesitation", and on March 12 had said that Trudeau's government had no plans to ground the 737 MAX 8. The Canadian Union of Public Employees had called on Air Canada "to at a minimum continue to offer reassignment to crew members who do not want to fly on this type of airplane. The safety of passengers and crews must be the absolute priority."
As a result of the Flight 302 accident, aviation authorities and airlines began grounding the Boeing 737 MAX due to safety concerns. The list below is as of March 18, 2019 (sorted by country/region):
|Civil Aviation Authority (Albania)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Directorate of Civil Aviation and Meteorology (Algeria)||March 18||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|National Civil Aviation Administration (Argentina)||March 17||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aviation Committee (Armenia)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aviation Safety Authority (Australia)||March 12||Grounded all 737 MAX in the country.|
|Ministry of Transport (Austria)||March 12||Grounded all 737 MAX in the country.|
|Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Department for Aviation (Belarus)||March 14||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Federal Public Service Mobility and Transport (Belgium)||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Directorate of Civil Aviation (Bosnia and Herzegovina)||March 14||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|National Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil||March 13||Grounded the 737 MAX-8 in the country.|
|Department of Civil Aviation of Brunei||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aviation Administration (Bulgaria)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Transport Canada||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Directorate General of Civil Aviation (Chile)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aviation Administration of China||March 11||Grounded all 737 MAX in the country.|
|Special Administrative Unit of Civil Aeronautics (Colombia)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Dirección General de Aviación Civil (Costa Rica)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Department of Civil Aviation (Cyprus)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Danish Transport Authority||March 13||Grounded all 737 MAX in the country.|
|Djibouti Civil Aviation Authority||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace |
|Ministry of Civil Aviation (Egypt)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (Ethiopia)||March 14||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Equatorial Guinea Civil Aviation Authority||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace |
|European Aviation Safety Agency||March 12||737 MAX aircraft banned from airspace. This covers the European Union and the member countries of EFTA.|
|Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji||March 12||Operation of 737 MAX suspended.|
|Directorate General for Civil Aviation (France)||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Agence Nationale de l'Aviation Civile du Gabon||March 14||737 MAX banned from airspace |
|Civil Aviation Authority (Georgia)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (Germany)||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (Greece)||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil (Guatemala)||March 15||737 MAX banned from airspace |
|Civil Aviation Department (Hong Kong)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Ministry of Civil Aviation (India)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Ministry of Transportation (Indonesia)||March 11||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Iran Civil Aviation Organization||March 15||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Iraq Civil Aviation Authority||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Irish Aviation Authority||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aviation Authority of Israel||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Italian Civil Aviation Authority||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace |
|Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (Japan)||March 14||B737 MAX flights to Japan banned.|
|Civil Aviation Committee (Kazakhstan)||March 14||737 MAX flights suspended.|
|Ministry of Information, Communications, Transport and Tourism Development (Kiribati)||March 14||737 MAX banned from airspace |
|Civil Aviation Authority of Kosovo||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Directorate General of Civil Aviation (Kuwait)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Lebanese Civil Aviation Authority||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aviation Authority (Macau)||March 13||Operation of 737 MAX suspended.|
|Civil Aviation Agency (North Macedonia)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia||March 12||Operation of 737 MAX suspended.|
|Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics (Mexico)||March 14||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aviation Authority (Moldova)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aviation Agency (Montenegro)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Namibia Civil Aviation Authority||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (Netherlands)||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Meteorology (Oman)||March 12||Operation of 737 MAX suspended.|
|Civil Aviation Authority (Panama)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Dirección Nacional de Aeronáutica Civil (Paraguay)||March 15||737 MAX banned from airspace. |
|Civil Aviation Authority (Poland)||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|National Institute of Civil Aviation of Portugal||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Romanian Civil Aeronautical Authority||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Federal Air Transport Agency (Russia)||March 14||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority||March 14||737 MAX banned from airspace. |
|Agence Nationale de l'Aviation Civile et de la Météorologie (Senegal)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace |
|Civil Aviation Directorate of the Republic of Serbia||March 14||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace |
|Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (South Korea)||March 14||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aeronautics Administration (Taiwan)||March 14||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand||March 13||Operation of 737 MAX suspended.|
|Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (Turkey)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|State Aviation Administration of Ukraine||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|General Civil Aviation Authority (UAE)||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace |
|Civil Aviation Authority (United Kingdom)||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|Federal Aviation Administration (United States)||March 13||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
|National Civil Aviation and Aviation Infrastructure Direction (Uruguay)||March 18||737 MAX banned from airspace |
|Civil Aviation Agency of Uzbekistan||March 13||737 MAX barred from airports |
|Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam||March 12||737 MAX banned from airspace.|
After the Ethiopian Air crash, airlines grounded all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft series in their fleets. List is ordered by operator name and is current as of 16:00 UTC, March 17 2019 (includes pre-delivered aircraft located at Boeing Field, Renton Municipal Airport and Paine Field airports):
|9 Air||March 12||3|||
|Aerolíneas Argentinas||March 11||5|||
|Air Canada||March 13||24|||
|Air China||March 11||15|||
|Air Italy||March 12||4|||
|American Airlines||March 13||25|||
|Cayman Airways||March 11||2|||
|China Eastern Airlines||March 11||3|||
|China Southern Airlines||March 11||24|||
|Copa Airlines||March 13||6|||
|Corendon Airlines||March 12||1|||
|Eastar Jet||March 11||2|||
|Enter Air||March 12||2|||
|Ethiopian Airlines||March 11||4|||
|Fiji Airways||March 12||2|||
|Fuzhou Airlines||March 11||2|||
|Garuda Indonesia||March 11||1|||
|Gol Transportes Aéreos||March 11||7|||
|Hainan Airlines||March 11||11|||
|Jet Airways||March 12||8|||
|Kunming Airlines||March 11||2|||
|Lion Air||March 11||10|||
|LOT Polish Airlines||March 12||5|||
|Lucky Air||March 11||3|||
|Mauritania Airlines||March 12||1|||
|MIAT Mongolian Airlines||March 11||1|||
|Norwegian Air International||March 12||9|||
|Norwegian Air Shuttle||March 12||6|||
|Norwegian Air Sweden||March 12||3|||
|Okay Airways||March 11||2|||
|Oman Air||March 15||5|||
|Royal Air Maroc||March 11||2|||
|S7 Airlines||March 12||2|||
|SCAT Airlines||March 13||1|||
|Shandong Airlines||March 11||7|||
|Shanghai Airlines||March 11||12|||
|Shenzhen Airlines||March 11||6|||
|Southwest Airlines||March 13||34|||
|Sunwing Airlines||March 12||4|||
|Thai Lion Air||March 13||3|||
|TUI Airways||March 12||6|||
|TUI fly Belgium||March 12||4|||
|TUI fly Deutschland||Unknown||1|||
|TUI fly Netherlands||March 12||3|||
|TUI fly Nordic||March 12||2|||
|Turkish Airlines||March 12||14|||
|United Airlines||March 13||14|||
On March 13, Norwegian Air became the first airline publicly demanding compensation from Boeing for the costs of the groundings of the 737 MAX. CEO Bjørn Kjos said, "It is quite obvious we will not take the cost related to the new aircraft that we have to park temporarily, we will send this bill to those who produce this aircraft." India's SpiceJet also announced that they will seek compensation from Boeing. A senior official said, "We will seek compensation from Boeing for the grounding of the aircraft. We will also seek recompense for revenue loss and any kind of maintenance or technical overhaul that the aircraft will have to undergo. This is part of the contract, which we signed with Boeing for all the 737 MAX aircraft".
On March 14, Indonesian flag carrier Garuda Indonesia announced cancellation of 49 orders for the Boeing 737 MAX 8, citing "concerns on the safety of passengers". Bloomberg News reported that Lion Air plans to drop a $22 billion order with Boeing in favor of Airbus aircraft and that the 737 MAX's problems put $600 billion in orders at risk. Boeing suspended deliveries of 737 MAX aircraft to customers, but did not halt production of the aircraft. Analysts estimated that each month of the grounding could result in a delay of $1.8 billion in revenue to the company. Boeing shares lost 11% of their value in the week leading up to March 14.
Boeing 737 Max planes around the world have been grounded at their destination following the fatal Ethiopia crash last weekend. Former FAA director of accident investigation Steven Wallace joined CBSN to discuss what it will take to get the passenger jets back in the air.