Tuesday, 12 March 2019

The UK puts a halt to Boeing 737 Max operations

Boeing 737 Max 8 of Icelandair                Photo Icelandair
On Tuesday, March 12th, the UK's Civil Aviation Authority banned the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from operating in or out of the UK. Plus as a major blow to the US manufacturer, the UK has also banned the 737 Max 8 and Max 9 from its airspace, which means no airline is allowed to fly the types over the UK.

A spokesperson said, "Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by the tragic incident in Ethiopia on Sunday.

"The UK Civil Aviation Authority has been closely monitoring the situation, however, as we do not currently have sufficient information from the flight data recorder we have, as a precautionary measure, issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace.

"The UK Civil Aviation Authority's safety directive will be in place until further notice.  We remain in close contact with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and industry regulators globally."

The UK is not the only country to ban the 737 Max aircraft from its airspace, similar bans have been instigated by authorities in Singapore, China, France, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The ban came into effect from 1300 today and caused a Turkish Airlines flight bound for London on a 737 Max aircraft to turn around and head back for Istanbul.  The holiday giant TUI, which had previously refused to ground its 737 Max fleet saying it would only listen to Boeing, has reluctantly had to ground its fleet.  It assured passengers with flights book on the type, their holidays would continue as normal with the flights being operating by other aircraft.

and follows the refusals by Norwegian and TUI to ground the jets as a precaution.  

The safety directive from the CAA states it is making the decision in the interests of safety of operation and to protect the public following the accident of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing Model 737-8 “MAX” aircraft on 10 March 2019. External reports are drawing similarities between this accident and Lion Air flight 610 on 29 October 2018 involving the same type of aircraft. Given the similarity of the two accidents, it has been decided that as a precautionary measure that all Boeing 737-8 “MAX” and Boeing 737-9 “MAX” operations in the United Kingdom, whether by UK AOC holders or foreign AOC holders and carriers, should stop until appropriate safeguards are in place.

The CAA also states that as the 737 Max 9 is so similar to the Max 8 model, the Max 9 is all banned from UK operations and overflying. 

It is understood from sources at the US giant, that Boeing in the UK has already made a complaint to the UK government following the decision by the Civil Aviation Authority, to ban its latest incantations of the Boeing 737 from commercial operations.  Boeing has reiterated it's belief in its product saying "We have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX." It also says, "based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators."

Icelandair becomes the latest operator to suspend 737 Max flights.

Photo Icelandair
Icelandair becomes another 737 Max 8 operator to suspend it from flying.   The troubled airline stated that it had decided to temporarily suspend operations of its three Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft until further notice.   The Company advised that it would follow any further developments closely and was working with local, European, and American authorities regarding next steps. 

In the short term, this decision will not have a material impact on the firm's operations since it only affects 3 passenger aircraft of a total fleet of 33.  Despite the suspension, the airline maintains it has confidence in the 737 Max 8 aircraft, citing its safety processes and the training of its crew as the main reasons.  The airline has in recent months, used its brand new 737 Max 8 aircraft as security for loans and refinancing. In the last few days, the Icelandic firm used 10 of its older Boeing 757 aircraft as security for an $80 million loan.