Aeromexico, Norwegian Ground 737 Max 8s

Ethiopian Airlines Plane Crash
Photo by AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene via Newscred

Aeromexico and Norwegian have become the latest airlines to ground their Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft following a deadly crash involving a Max 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines. The crash, which killed all 157 onboard, is the second such incident involving this aircraft type in recent months. 

In its latest statement Aeromexico reports that it has decided to temporarily suspend the operation of all six of its Max 8s until more thorough information from the investigation into the accident is available. Flights operated by these aircraft will be reassigned throughout Aeromexico’s fleet. 

“The airline reiterates that it has full confidence in the safety of the fleet and that during the last year, it has operated the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in safe, reliable and efficient conditions,” Aeromexico said, however. 

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The crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 occurred on March 10 approximately six minutes after takeoff from Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa, bound for Nairobi, Kenya. After the aircraft struggled to ascend at a stable speed, the pilot sent out a distress call and was approved to return to the airport. Eyewitness reports indicate that the plane was “swerving and dipping” before descending. 

The same aircraft model, operated by Indonesian airline Lion Air, was involved in another deadly crash in October that killed all 189 people onboard. Following an investigation by Indonesian authorities, the plane went into an abrupt nose dive that “may have been caused by updated Boeing software that is meant to prevent a stall but that can send the plane into a fatal descent if the altitude and angle information being fed into the computer system is incorrect.”

Since the Ethiopian Airlines crash, authorities in China and India have ordered the grounding of all 737 Max 8 aircraft. 

In Europe, low-cost transatlantic carrier Norwegian reports that, due to a decision by the relevant aviation regulatory authorities, it will not operate any flights on Max 8s until further notice. The airline has 18 of that aircraft type in its fleet today, with a total order of 110; however, it also has more than 110 Boeing 737-800s that are not affected by the suspension. 

“We remain in close dialogue with the aviation authorities and Boeing, and follow their instructions and recommendations,” the airline said in a written release. 

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification regarding the Max 8, as it continues to support the investigation into the Ethiopian Airlines crash. 

“External reports are drawing similarities between this accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident on October 29,” the FAA said. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions.”

American Airlines reports that it will continue to operate its 24 Max 8 aircraft. 

“At this time there are no facts on the cause of the accident other than news reports,” the airline said in a statement provided to Travel Agent. “Our Flight, Flight Service, Tech Ops and Safety teams, along with the Allied Pilots Association (APA) and Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), will closely monitor the investigation in Ethiopia, which is our standard protocol for any aircraft accident. American continues to collaborate with the FAA and other regulatory authorities, as the safety of our team members and customers is our number one priority. We have full confidence in the aircraft and our crew members, who are the best and most experienced in the industry.”

Similarly, Southwest Airlines says that it will also continue operating the aircraft. 

"As the investigation of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 progresses, we are staying in close contact with Boeing, the FAA, and other airlines to learn the cause of the accident," a Southwest spokesperson tells Travel Agent. "After operating more than 41,000 MAX 8 flights, we remain confident in the safety and airworthiness of the aircraft. We do not have any changes planned to our MAX 8 operations."

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