U.S. Stubbornly Refuses to Ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 Fleet

Boeing 737 MAX 8 (Photo: Boeing)

Talk about the absurdity of protecting one's own. The United States remains alone among the world's major countries in not grounding its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX 8 passenger jets, which figured in two horrific crashes five months apart that killed more than 340 people.

A design flaw with a new system is suspected of contributing to both aircraft crashes: the first one involving a Lion Air flight in Indonesia and the latest one on March 10 involving an Ethiopian Airlines flight out of Addis Ababa,

The European Union, the United Kingdom, China, and Australia are part the growing list of more than 30 countries that have either banned domestic carriers from flying the MAX 8 or forbidden MAX 8s from entering their airspace.

All these countries said their bans on the Max 8 are temporary and will be lifted pending findings from an accident investigation inquiry looking into the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

The over 30 countries account for more than half of the world's fleet of MAX 8s. China was the first major country to ground its MAX 8 fleet of 96 planes, and took the decision on the same day of the accident. The European Union followed suit yesterday.

"As a precautionary measure, (the European Union Aviation Safety Agency) has published today an Airworthiness Directive, effective as of 19:00 UTC, suspending all flight operations of all Boeing Model 737-8 MAX and 737-9 MAX airplanes in Europe," said the EU in a statement.

The EU will also prevent any airlines from outside the 28 member bloc from operating the models within EU boundaries.

New Zealand is the latest to join the growing list of countries suspending service of the Boeing 737 MAX 8. Its decision will only affect one carrier, Fiji Airways since it is the only company that flies this model to New Zealand. The country joins Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, South Africa, Singapore, and Australia, which took the step yesterday and today.

On the other hand, the United States has yet to issue a grounding order. On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration, which is working with the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the crash, said the planes are still airworthy.

Southwest and American are the only U.S. airlines that fly the MAX 8. Both firms said they are closely watching developments that could affect the planes.

Some American lawmakers, including Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CN)' Mitt Romney, (R-UT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), have called for grounding the MAX 8.

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