Australia, Britain join nations grounding 737 Max 8; Utah Sen. Mitt Romney weighs in

Airlines around the world are grounding the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft after the Ethiopian Airlines crash Sunday. Photo by STR/ EPA-EFE
March 12 (UPI) — Nearly half of the world’s Boeing 737 Max 8 airliners have been grounded as Britain and Australia joined the list of nations that have suspended flying the model after the deadly crash in Ethiopia.Carriers have grounded about 40 percent of the global fleet over concerns for what led to the crash Sunday that killed 157 people. It was the second crash involving the Max 8 in less than six months. An Indonesian Lion Air flight in October killed 189. In both cases, the plane crashed shortly after takeoff.

“This is completely different to what happened to Lion Air, and that’s going to be part of the investigation — determining what the differences were, if there were any similarities between the two situations, and then finding and correcting the cause,” aviation consultant Keith Mackey told Al Jazeera.

Several nations have suspended using the 737 Max 8 — Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, South Africa, Singapore and Australia. Argentine pilots have refused to fly the aircraft. Britain joined them by grounding its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft on Tuesday.

The Irish Aviation Authority made the decision at 11 a.m. EST Tuesday to suspend all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from Irish airspace.

During the temporary suspension, the IAA will continue to work closely with the European Aviation Safety Agency, the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority and the manufacturer Boeing,” Irish authorities said.

The British Civil Aviation Authority stopped all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from arriving, departing or flying over British airspace. The order, done as a precaution, applies to flights from all airlines. Two such flights were rerouted because they had already taken off.

The only U.S. carriers that fly the Max 8, Southwest and American, continue to fly them after the FAA declared them safe. Both airlines said they are closely watching developments that could affect the planes.

The FAA said it’s working with the National Transportation Safety Board on the matter. Investigators from both agencies are examining the crash site in Ethiopia, and the FAA plans to issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community for the Max 8.

“We are collecting data and keeping in contact with international civil aviation authorities as information becomes available,” the FAA said in a statement Monday. “The FAA continuously assesses and oversees the performance of U.S. commercial aircraft. If we identify an issue that affects safety, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”

Boeing said it will make a software upgrade for the Max 8 at the direction of the FAA.

“We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who design and build it,” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told employees in an email.

No further guidance from Boeing was expected and the manufacturer said it has full confidence in the aircraft.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, said two recent crashes with the Max 8 raise serious safety concerns, including whether they may have been rushed into service without proper pilot training.

“The FAA should follow [other countries’] lead, reverse their decision, and immediately ground this plane in the United States until its safety can be assured,” said Warren, who is running for president in 2020. “Today, immediately, the FAA needs to get these planes out of the sky.”

Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., agreed with Warren.

“Out of an abundance of caution for the flying public, the FAA should ground the 737 MAX 8 until we investigate the causes of recent crashes and ensure the plane’s airworthiness,” Romney tweeted.

“The FAA & the airline industry must act quickly & decisively to protect American travelers, pilots, & flight attendants. All Boeing 737 Max 8s should be grounded until American travels can be assured that these planes are safe,” Blumenthal added.

Eight Americans were on the flight that crashed in Ethiopia — including California brothers Melvin and Bennet Riffel, who were returning from Australia when the plane crashed outside Addis Ababa.

“These are two guys that when they’re in the room, you really know it,” Jake Mangas told NBC News. “These guys were just wonderful, and they’re going to be missed deeply by this community [and] for those family and friends that knew them the best.”

Antoine Lewis from Matteson, Ill., a commander in the U.S. Army, was aboard the flight while on vacation.

“Losing anyone you love hurts but it’s a different hurt when you lose a sibling,” Matteson’s sister Markita posted to Facebook. “Thank you for always being a awesome big brother always encouraging me, believing in me, and teaching me to live with no fears.”

Mucaad Hussein Abdullah of Saint Cloud, Minn., was another American on the flight.


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