On Sunday, March 10, Ethiopian Airlines flight #302 was scheduled to travel from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD) to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO); however, shortly after take-off, the aircraft’s pilot issued a distress call, and the flight fatally crashed near Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Adaba.
While an immediate cause of the crash has not yet been identified, the aircraft itself has come into question. In addition to Sunday’s fatal crash, a new Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight went down over the Java Sea last October, killing 189 people. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in its advisory Monday that it had not been provided with any information that would draw similarities between the incidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
About the Aircraft
There are approximately 350 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in operation worldwide, according to the US FAA. The 200-seat Boeing 737 MAX is one of the fastest selling lines by Boeing, with more than 4,000 planes ordered within the first six months of coming into the market in 2017.
It’s important to note the particular model of aircraft involved in both crashes cited above was the Boeing 737 MAX 8, though a number of countries have also grounded the Boeing 737 MAX 9. Both the MAX 8 and 9 utilize a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which is a new feature on the models. Pilot organizations in the United States criticized Boeing after it disclosed that it had added a new feature to the plane’s autopilot system without detailing the changes in pilot training.
MCAS was designed to account for minor modifications to the placement of the plane’s engines. In the process it changed a manual override feature that allowed pilots to pull the plane out of a nosedive by pulling back on its control column. While Boeing maintains that processes are in place to overcome the “automatic trim” that nudges the nose of the plane downward in some circumstances, pilot unions say the change was not adequately outlined in pilot training. The Federal Aviation Administration advisory Monday asked for a number of changes to the MCAS system of the 737 Max 8 and Max 9 jets, including “activation enhancements,” “signal enhancements,” operations manuals and a pilot checklist.
Aircraft Grounded in Multiple Countries
The Boeing 737 Max 8 has been temporarily banned in Australia, China, France, Germany, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, the Netherlands, South Korea and the UK, among other countries, as well as grounded by multiple airlines around the world.
Despite growing pressure from legislatures and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, on Monday at 3:15 EST, the FAA issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification for Boeing 737 MAX Operators: “An FAA team is on-site with the NTSB in its investigation of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. We are collecting data and keeping in contact with international civil aviation authorities as information becomes available. Today, the FAA will issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) for Boeing 737 MAX Operators. The FAA continuously assesses and oversees the safety performance of US commercial aircraft. If we identify an issue that affects safety, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”
Airlines that Fly the Aircraft
Domestically, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines fly the Boeing 737 MAX 8. United Airlines operates a different model, the Boeing 737 MAX 9. Southwest has 34 of the planes in operation, while American operates 24.
Aeromexico, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Cayman Airways, Comair Airways, Eastar Jets, Icelandic Airways and Norwegian Air, among others, have temporarily suspended use of the planes.
Globally, the aircraft is operated by the following airlines: AerCap, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air China, Air Europa, Air Europa, Air Lease Corporation, Air Niugini, Air Niugini, Air Peace, Air Peace, ALAFCO, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Arik Air, Arik Air, Aviation Capital Group, Avolon, Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan, Blue Air, Blue Air, BOC Aviation, CALC, CDB Aviation, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, CIT Aerospace, Comair Limited, Copa Airlines, Corendon Airlines, Corendon Airlines, Donghai Airlines, Donghai Airlines, Eastern Air Lines, Eastern Air Lines, Enter Air, Enter Air, Ethiopian Airlines, flydubai, Garuda Indonesia, GE Capital Aviation Services, GOL Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Hainan Airlines, ICBC Leasing, ICBC Leasing, Icelandair, Jet Airways, Jetlines, Korean Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lion Air, Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Mauritania Airlines, Mauritania Airlines, Neox, Neos, Nok Air, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Okay Airways, Oman Air, Primera Air , Primera Air, Qatar Airways, Qatar Airways, Ruili Airlines, Ruili Airlines, Ryanair, Shandong Airlines, Shandong Airlines, SilkAir, SMBC Aviation Capital, Southwest Airlines, SpiceJet, Sriwijaya Air, Sriwijaya Air, SunExpress, Travel Service, TUI Group, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, VietJet Aviation, VietJet Aviation, Virgin Australia, WestJet, Xiamen Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines.
Checking Aircraft Equipment in the GDS
In Sabre and Apollo, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 will appear as Equipment Code 7M8 and the Boeing 737 MAX 9 as Equipment Code 7M9; however, exact equipment often changes leading up to departure. The most current information can also be found on www.flighstats.com.
Currently, airlines are not issuing waivers for flight changes that involve the aircraft.
FROSCH Travel Advisors should NOT give clients their opinion on the operations or safety of any particular aircraft, including the Boeing 737 MAX 8 or 9. It is the strict discretion of the passenger.