Following the tragic Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed all people on board — at least 157 — and the fatal Lion Air crash in late October, both involving Boeing 737 Max 8s, Germany, Britain, France, Australia, Malaysia, Ireland, Singapore, and Oman have all banned the aircraft model from their airspaces.
The US has issued no such ban, though President Trump gave his opinion on Twitter saying, “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly.” US investigators are currently at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, and will focus on the voice and data recorders discovered at the site on Monday.
In a statement today, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority announced that it has “as a precautionary measure, issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace.”
According to The New York Times, 28 airlines have grounded their Boeing 737 Max 8s, including Norwegian Air ceasing all 18 of its Max 8s until further notice, and China and Indonesia ordering all their airlines to stop operating the plane model.
The widespread grounding is a huge vote of no-confidence in the plane manufacturer. Although it’s too soon to know for sure, these incidents may prompt airlines to forego Boeing planes and, instead, opt for the better-known Airbus A320neo.
In a strange turn of events, the two tragedies involving Boeings could prove fortuitous for China’s state-controlled airline industry. A government company in Shanghai has been conducting test flights of the Comac C919, a Chinese-made alternative to the Boeing 737. Although the plane will be ready in 2021 and has already received hundreds of domestic orders, China has struggled to attract international buyers.
For the C919 to position itself as a serious competitor to Boeing and Airbus, it would need to assuage concerns about fuel efficiency and potential safety issues. China has a poor record of being forthcoming with information, most notably covering up a high-speed train crash in 2011. The government prohibited press from covering the incident, and authorities bulldozed the wreckage before investigators could arrive at the scene. If China wants to become a player in the aircraft manufacturing industry, it will have to prove its dedication to both safety and transparency. The widely publicized Boeing disasters, however, could make China’s bid much easier.
H/T: The New York Times