US President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Wednesday (Thursday Australia time) to ground the Boeing 737 MAX 8 following the latest deadly crash as reports surfaced from American pilots who reported issues with the plane late last year.
Many nations had already barred the Boeing 737 MAX 8 from its airspace, but until Trump’s announcement, America’s Federal Aviation Administration had said that it didn’t have any data to show the jets are unsafe.
Trump cited “new information” that had come to light in the ongoing investigation into incident. He did not elaborate.
“All of those planes are grounded, effective immediately,” Trump said during a scheduled briefing on border security.
Trump said any airplane currently in the air will go to its destination and then be grounded. He added all airlines and affected pilots had been notified. Trump said the safety of the American people is of “paramount concern,” and added that the FAA would soon put out a statement on the action.
Trump said the decision to ground the aircraft “didn’t have to be made, but we thought it was the right decision.”
The president insisted the announcement was co-ordinated with aviation officials in Canada, U.S. carriers and aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
“Boeing is an incredible company,” Trump said. “They are working very, very hard right now and hopefully they’ll quickly come up with an answer.”
“DONT SINK DONT SINK!”
It comes hours after at least four pilots made reports following the October crash of a Lion Air flight in Indonesia shortly after takeoff, all complaining that the aircraft suddenly pitched downward, according to documents reviewed by AFP on a flight safety database.
The incidents seem to involve the flight stabilisation system designed to prevent the aircraft from stalling, the “MCAS,” which was implicated in the fatal accident in the Lion Air crash that killed 189 people shortly after takeoff.
Canada's transport minister says the country is closing air space to the Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jetliner. Picture: APSource:AP
One pilot logged an incident in November 2018, just weeks after the Lion Air crash, saying the plane “pitched nose down” two to three seconds after engaging the autopilot following takeoff, according to the report on the Aviation Safety Reporting System, maintained by NASA.
“The captain immediately disconnected the autopilot and pitched into a climb,” the report said. “The rest of the flight was uneventful.”
The report said the flight crew reviewed the incident “at length … but can’t think of any reason the aircraft would pitch nose-down so aggressively.”
Another pilot on a flight in November said the crew discussed the concerns about the aircraft and “I mentioned I would engage the autopilot sooner than usual.” But again once engaged, there was a quick automated warning of “DONT SINK DONT SINK!”
“I immediately disconnected the AP (autopilot) … and resumed climb,” the officer said. But after review, “frankly neither of us could find an inappropriate set up error.”
“With the concerns with the MAX 8 nose-down stuff, we both thought it appropriate to bring it to your attention.”
A crew working with an investigative team to clear the site after the Sunday crash of the Ethiopian Airlines operated Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
The Lion Air accident had focused attention on Angle of Attack (AOA) sensors connected to the Aircraft Stabilization System (MCAS).
A malfunction of these tools may erroneously correct the path by pitching the aircraft down due to a mistaken assessment that the aircraft is in stall.
The Ethiopian Airlines disaster took place shortly after takeoff and the aircraft experienced irregular climbs and descents just after taking off.
“We’re going to decline to comment on specific ASRS reports,” an FAA spokeswoman told AFP.
“We are not aware of any verified reports of MCAS issues in the US.”
The ASRS is a voluntary system of reports that allows research to “lessen the likelihood of aviation accidents.”
CANADA BANS BOEING MAX 8S
After the latest accident on Sunday of the 737 MAX 8 from Ethiopian Airlines, shortly after takeoff, killing 157, numerous airlines and governments around the world grounded the aircraft or banned it from their skies, including Australia and Europe.
Canada followed suit on Wednesday (local time), with Transport Minister Marc Garneau telling a press conference, “As a result of new data that we received this morning, and had the chance to analyse, and on the advice of my experts and as a precautionary measure, I issued a safety notice.”
Eighteen of the Ethiopian crash victims were Canadian.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau speaks about the grounding of all Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes in Canada during a press conference on March 13, 2019. Picture: APSource:AP
“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.”
Garneau said he made his decision after reviewing “validated satellite tracking data suggesting a possible, although unproven, similarity in the flight profile of the Lion Air aircraft.” “I caution that it is new information that is not conclusive and we must await further evidence, hopefully from the voice and data recorders,” he added
“There is going to be some disruptions,” Garneau said. “But caution has to dominate.”
Canada has the world’s third largest fleet of Boeing 737 MAX 8 jetliners, 41 planes operated by three Canadian carriers.
Relatives of the victims of the plane crash weep as they visit the crash site. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
His announcement comes after Australia, China, India, all European countries and others banned the medium-haul workhorse jet from their airspace in response to the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
“THERE WERE NO BODIES”
The cause of the tragedy in Ethiopia has not been determined, although the black boxes with critical data and recordings of the pilot were retrieved Monday and have been sent to Germany to be analysed, an Ethiopian Airlines spokesman said.
The flight that took off from Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019 killed all eight crew and 149 passengers on board, including "at least a dozen" UN staff. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
The spokesman also said no bodies will be recovered from the site where Flight 302 crashed, because only fragmented remains survived the impact.
“There were no bodies,” he told Reuters.
Sunday’s still unexplained crash, just after takeoff from Addis Ababa, killed everyone on board.
The dead came from 35 countries.