The European Union banned Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from operating in its airspace following two recent crashes of the popular jet. The EU ban affects 28 countries.
The move by the EU March 12, 2019, followed the United Kingdom's announcment the same day that it had banned the aircraft from operating in its airspace.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has declined to ground the aircraft. U.S. senators Dianne Feinstein and Richard Blumenthal are calling on the FAA to ground the planes.
The safety of the aircraft, as well as the Boeing 737 MAX 9, has been called into question following a second fatal crash, this time of an Ethiopian Airlines flight March 10, 2019, outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that killed all 157 people aboard.
A Lion Air flight—also a Boeing 737 MAX 8—crashed in October 29, 2018, near Indonesia, killing all 189 people on the flight.
Reports indicate that the crashes may be attributed to the aircrafts’ Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).
The new technology, incorporated to improve fuel efficiency, overrides pilot input when an aircraft’s nose rises too high, which puts the aircraft at risk of an aerodynamic stall.
During an interview on Fox News, commercial airline pilot Anthony Roman said that such stalls are nearly impossible to recover from at low altitudes.
The FAA issued the following statement:
“External reports are drawing similarities between this accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident on October 29, 2018. However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions.”
According to the FAA, 74 of the aircraft are in operation in the U.S. fleet and 387 worldwide. American Airlines and Southwest Airlines fly Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets in the U.S.
What Meeting Planners Should Do
While the situation does not rise to the level of force majeure for attrition in the event of attendees cancelling flights because of worries about the 737 MAX, meeting planners can advise them to contact their air carriers to switch flights.
At publication time, American Airlines told USA Today that passengers who wish to change flights would be subject to its standard change-fee rules. Southwest does not charge change fees, but passengers wishing to change their flight would have to pay the prevailing fare.
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United Airlines, which doesn't operate 737 MAX 8s but does fly the larger version of the plane, the MAX 9, indicated on its Twitter feed that it would be amenable to helping travelers booked on the 737 MAX 9 find alternative travel arrangements.
More Countries Ground MAX Flights As Safety Questioned
As a precautionary measure, the UK Civil Aviation Authority banned the 737 MAX from flying in the airspace of the United Kingdom on March 12, 2019.
Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman and Singapore earlier banned the aircraft from departing or landing at their airports. Cayman Airways also grounded its two 737 MAX aircraft.
According to The New York Times, two U.S. carriers use MAX 8s: Southwest Airlines, with 34 of the aircraft, and American Airlines, with 24. Both airlines said they would continue to use them.
Air Canada has 24 Boeing 737 MAX 8s in its fleet.
A report in The New York Times called into question Boeing’s training of pilots on the new maneuvering system before the Lion Air crash, citing American aviation authorities as saying the change had not been adequately explained to pilots.
The report also noted the rarity of this sort of occurrence.
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