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US says 'no basis' to ban Boeing 737 Max jets despite Ireland and rest of EU grounding planes

Two deadly crashes involving the model of plane have happened in the past five months.

File photo
File photo
Image: John Angelillo UPI/PA Images

THE UNITED STATES has said there is “no basis” to ground Boeing 737 MAX airplanes, after a second deadly crash involving the model in less than five months prompted governments worldwide to ban the aircraft.

Despite the aviation giant’s assurances that the plane is safe and reliable, Ireland and the rest of the European Union have joined India, China and other countries grounding the plane or banning it from their airspace as they await the results of the investigation into the crash.

But the US has so far refused to take similar action against the American aerospace giant’s best-selling workhorse aircraft.

“Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft,” Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Daniel Elwell said in a statement last night.

A new Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 went down minutes into a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board.

That followed the October crash of a new Lion Air jet of the same model in Indonesia, which killed 189 people shortly after takeoff from Jakarta.

The widening actions against the aircraft puts pressure on Boeing – the world’s biggest plane manufacturer – to prove the MAX planes are safe, and the company has said it is rolling out flight software updates by April that could address issues with a faulty sensor.

The full extent of the impact of the aircraft bans on international travel routes was unclear. There are about 350 MAX 8 planes currently in service around the world.

The Irish Aviation Authority’s (IAA) took steps yesterday afternoon to temporarily suspend the operation of all variants of the Boeing aircraft into and out of Irish airspace.

“This decision has been taken based on ensuring the continued safety of passengers and flight crew, which is the IAA’s number one priority,” the IAA said. 

The suspension took effect from 3pm yesterday and followed an announcement by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority that it was banning these aircraft from its airspace.

A Norwegian flight to Newburgh, Orange County, New York – due to leave Dublin Airport at 3.20pm yesterday – was been cancelled. Earlier today the airline said it was grounding its Boeing 737 Max fleet. An earlier 2.55pm flight to Providence was also cancelled. 

A spokesperson for the airline said it is looking at re-allocating passengers on other Norwegian flights and it is currently in the process of offering re-bookings to affected passengers. 

‘Precautionary measure’

India joined the list of countries to ban the jet, a day after saying it had imposed additional interim safety requirements for ground engineers and crew for the aircraft.

New Zealand has also temporarily banned the aircraft from its airspace, along with Australia, Malaysia, Oman and Singapore.

Turkish Airlines, one of the largest carriers in the world, said it was suspending use of its 12 MAX aircraft from today, until “uncertainty” was clarified.

US President Donald Trump weighed in with his own take yesterday, tweeting: “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly.”

“Pilot are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT,” he wrote, referring to the prestigious university.

Trump later spoke by telephone to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who assured him the aircraft is safe, an industry source told AFP.

US carriers have so far appeared to maintain confidence in Boeing, which has been ordered by the FAA to make changes to flight systems and pilot training procedures.

© AFP 2019

With reporting from Sean Murray

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