UK too grounds Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

Ethiopian Airlines crash

London,  The UK on Tuesday joined Singapore, Australia and a number of other countries in banning Boeing 737 Max planes from operating in or over its airspace, following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane of the same model that killed all 157 people on board.

The US plane manufacturer’s latest model suffered a second fatal crash in less than five months on Sunday.

Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea and China have also banned the aircraft.

UK’s Civil Aviation Authority said the directive would remain in place until further notice, the BBC reported.

“As currently we do not 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 the UK airspace,” said a spokesman of the authority.

There are currently five 737 Max aircraft registered and operational in the UK. A sixth is planned to start operations later this week, according to the Guardian.

Earlier on Tuesday, Australia and Singapore suspended operations of all Boeing 737 Max aircraft in and out of their airports, after Indonesia and China grounded their fleets of the Boeing 737 Max 8.

The Singapore suspension affected SilkAir, an arm of Singapore Airlines, that according to the country’s Civil Aviation Authority operates six Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Singapore Airlines does not have any 737 MAX 8 planes.

The move affected China Southern Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Shandong Airlines and Thai Lion Air as these airlines fly into Singapore and have the 737 MAX in their fleets.

Australia’s move affected only Singapore Airlines Ltd’s SilkAir and Fiji Airways, as no Australian carriers use the model.

In an identical move, Vietnam said it would not licence Boeing 737 Max aircraft in the country, while South Korea suspended operations of the aircraft.

Aerol√≠neas Argentinas too grounded its five Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. The other airlines and countries that earlier suspended use of the 737 MAX 8 were Ethiopian Airlines, Aeromexico, Cayman Airways and South Africa’s Comair.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Boeing 737 Max 8 was airworthy but it had demanded design changes to the aircraft by April.

Boeing said it would deploy a software upgrade across the fleet “in the coming weeks”. The company said for several months it “been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 Max, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer”.

It did not refer to Sunday’s crash in connection to the software upgrade, but did express condolences to the relatives of those killed in the disaster.

The carriers that didn’t ground Boeing 737 Max 8 were Fiji Airways, American Airlines, Norwegian, Southwest Airlines and Icelandair.

On Sunday, Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302, on its way to the Kenyan capital Nairobi from Addis Ababa, crashed six minutes after takeoff. It ploughed into a field near Tulu Fara village outside the town of Bishoftu, some 60 km southeast of the Ethiopian capital. The cause of the crash was under probe.

The same model was involved in an accident last October when a Lion Air plane plunged into the sea, off the coast of West Java 13 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 on board.

The Boeing 737 Max fleet of aircraft are the latest in the company’s successful 737 line. The group includes the Max 7, 8, 9 and 10 models, according to the BBC.

By the end of January, Boeing delivered 350 of the Max 8 model out of 5,011 orders. A small number of Max 9s are also operating. The Max 7 and 10 models, not yet delivered, are due for rollout in the next few years.