Aviation

Ethiopia crash update: Australia suspends MAX 8 flights, as Trump weighs in

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

Australia has temporarily suspended operation of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft following the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

The European Union, the United Arab Emirates, China, India and Indonesia are among the growing list of regions to ground the aircraft, with the UK going as far as banning the model from entering its airspace.

The US and Canada are the only two nations still flying a substantial number of the MAX 8 and the Federal Aviation Administration in the US said in a statement that after conducting a review of the aircraft, it found no basis for grounding flights.

But that hasn’t stopped US president Donald Trump from voicing his concerns about aeroplanes in general.

“Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better,” Trump Tweeted.

While no Australian airlines operate the model, SilkAir and Fiji Airways operate it on flights into Australia.

“This is a temporary suspension while we wait for more information to review the safety risks of continued operations of the Boeing 737 MAX to and from Australia.” Australian Civil Aviation Authority’s CEO and director of aviation safety, Shane Carmody said in a statement.

“CASA regrets any inconvenience to passengers but believes it is important to always put safety first.”

The suspensions are a result of safety concerns following on from two fatal plane crashes involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

Flight ET302 travelling from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed into farmlands near Tulu Fara Village outside of Bishoftu over the weekend, killing all 157 people onboard.

The same model as the Lion Air flight which crashed into the Java sea in October, killing 189 people.

Boeing released a statement addressing concerns and said it understands regulatory agencies and customers have “made decisions they deem appropriate for their home markets”.

“We’ll continue to engage with them to ensure they have the information needed to have confidence in operating their fleets. The United States Federal Aviation Administration is not mandating any further action at this time, and based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators,” the statement said.

The plane manufacturer also said it has been developing a “flight control software enhancement” for the MAX, designed to “make an already safe aircraft even safer.” in the aftermath of the Lion Air tragedy.

“Boeing has been working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on development, planning and certification of the software enhancement, and it will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks. The update also incorporates feedback received from our customers.”

The enhancement appears to involve the angle of attack sensor which investigators believe may have played a role in the Lion Air crash.

Despite drawing no connection between the new development and the Ethiopian Airlines crash, Boeing added they would like to “express our deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.”

The cause of the Ethiopian Airlines crash has not yet been determined but the air traffic control’s recorded voice exchange with the pilot has revealed the pilot was experiencing “flight control problems”.

“He was having difficulties with the flight control of the aeroplane,” the airline’s CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told CNN.

GebreMariam also said the airline believes the similarities with the Lion Air crash are “substantial”.

“We don’t yet know the exact cause of the accident, and speculation is not helpful in either way,” he said.

“But I think there are questions without answers on the airplane.”

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