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Boeing recommends suspension of global 737 Max aircraft fleet amid safety concerns

The suspension follows days of speculation about the safety of the aircraft.

An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8 at Trudeau Airport in Montreal this morning
An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8 at Trudeau Airport in Montreal this morning
Image: Graham Hughes/PA Images

Updated Mar 13th 2019, 7:10 PM

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has announced he will issue an emergency order to ground Boeing 737 Max planes amid concerns over their safety.

Trump told reporters at the White House that all flight operations involving the plane will be suspended in the US, becoming the latest country to ground the aircraft.

Yesterday evening, the European Aviation Safety Agency also announced a Europe-wide suspension of flights involving the aircraft.

It follows the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight on Sunday, in which 157 people – including Irishman Michael Ryan – were killed, the second crash involving the Boeing 737 Max in six months.

That crash came four months after a Lion Air jet of the same model crashed in Indonesia, killing 189 people.

“We’re going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition regarding all flights of the 737 Max 8 and 737 Max 9,” Trump said.

Boeing chief Dennis Muilenburg said he supported the US decision, but claimed the company continues to have “full confidence” in the safety of the plane.

He also said he recommended to the Federal Aviation Administration that the global fleet should be suspended “out of an abundance of caution”.

The company said it would continue in its efforts “to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again”.

Trump’s announcement comes after Canada ordered a halt to flight operations involving the aircraft earlier today, with a ban on the plane flying in its skies announced this afternoon.

That suspension hit the world’s third largest fleet of the aircraft, leaving 41 planes operated by three Canadian carriers on the ground.

“As a result of new data that we received this morning, and the chance to analyse, and on the advice of my experts and as a precautionary measure, I issued a safety notice,” Canada’s transport minister March Garneau said.

“This safety notice restricts commercial passenger flights from any operator of the Boeing 737 Max 8 or Max 9 variant aircraft, whether domestic or foreign, from arriving, departing or overflying Canadian air space.

“This safety notice is effective immediately and will remain in place until further notice.”

When asked about the grounding of aircraft today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that in doing so, the Irish Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency are “putting safety considerations first”.

“We have a very good record of airline safety in the European Union, and I think you always need to put safety first, and it may only be the grounding of aircraft for a couple of days or weeks to make the necessary checks, but that is the correct thing to do, to put safety first.”

No problems with the 737 Max have yet been identified, but authorities and airlines across the world have moved to ground flights involving the aircraft amid safety concerns over the plane.

Around 350 of the planes are currently in service around the world, while Boeing has also taken more than 5,000 orders for different versions of the carrier.

With reporting from - © AFP 2019 and Christina Finn

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