U.S. will not suspend Boeing 737 MAX planes after Ethiopia crash
Updated 15:18, 13-Mar-2019

The U.S. aviation regulator said on Tuesday it would not ground Boeing Co 737 Max planes after an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people, bucking a trend of countries around the world that have suspended the aircraft's operations.

The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) acting administrator, Dan Elwell, said a review by the body "shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft."

The European Union's aviation safety regulator, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), on Tuesday suspended all flights in the bloc by the 737 Max, saying "Based on all available information, EASA considers that further actions may be necessary to ensure the continued airworthiness of the two affected models."

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican who chairs the Senate subcommittee on aviation and space, said on Tuesday it would be "prudent" for the United States "to temporarily ground 737 Max aircraft until the FAA confirms the safety of these aircraft and their passengers."

The statement of the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States. /  CGTN Photo

The statement of the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States. /  CGTN Photo

But Elwell said no foreign civil aviation authorities had provided data that would warrant action. If any safety issues are identified during an ongoing urgent review of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, the FAA will "take immediate and appropriate action," he said.

Boeing, the world's biggest planemaker, which has seen billions of dollars wiped off its market value since the crash, said it understood the countries' actions but retained "full confidence" in the 737 Max and had safety as its priority.

U.S. President Donald Trump commented on Twitter, writing: "Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT...."

He did not refer to Boeing or recent accidents, but his comments echoed an automation debate that partially lies at the center of a probe into October's Lion Air crash in Indonesia. Investigators are examining the role of a software system designed to push the plane down, alongside airline training and repair standards.

Boeing said late Monday the software enhancement will be deployed across the 737 Max fleet in the coming weeks. The announcements come as the company is fighting to save its reputation.

Boeing statement on 737 Max software enhancement.  / CGTN Photo‍ 

Boeing statement on 737 Max software enhancement.  / CGTN Photo‍ 

The cause of Sunday's crash, which followed another disaster with a 737 Max five months ago in Indonesia that killed 189 people, remains unknown. In both cases, new Boeing planes crashed shortly after taking off and after their pilots had contacted the control tower to request an emergency return.

"The [Ethiopian Airlines] plane was seesawing. It was gaining altitude and then dropping, gaining altitude and dropping," citing data from flight tracking website Flightradar24.

Search crews have recovered both the digital flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

There is no evidence yet whether the two crashes are linked. Plane experts say it is too early to speculate on the reason for the latest crash. Most are caused by a unique chain of human and technical factors.

(With inputs from agencies)