Boeing crisis escalates as countries ground 737 MAX jets

CNN/ Newswire | 3/11/2019, 12:33 p.m.
China, Indonesia and several airlines around the world have grounded the 737 MAX 8 after a second crash involving the ...
Boeing's bestselling passenger jet is facing increased scrutiny after being involved in two deadly crashes in less than five months, a situation that threatens to tarnish the US plane maker's reputation for safety.

By David Goldman, Jethro Mullen and Charles Riley, CNN Business

(CNN) -- China, Indonesia and several airlines around the world have grounded the 737 MAX 8 after a second crash involving the best-selling Boeing aircraft in less than five months.

Chinese aviation authorities on Monday told airlines in the country to ground all their Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, citing the need for "strict control of safety risks."

Regulators in Indonesia said that planes there would need to be inspected before flights resumed. Some individual airlines are taking similar action elsewhere.

All 157 people on board a 737 MAX 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines were killed when the plane crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday. In late October, a 737 MAX 8 flown by Lion Air went down off the coast of Indonesia.

Both the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air planes were brand-new aircraft. And both crashed minutes into flight.

The situation threatens to tarnish Boeing's reputation for safety, and raise doubts about one of the company's most popular jets. Shares in Boeing dropped 8% in early trade in New York.

"A suspension in China is very significant, as this is a major market for Boeing," said Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at aviation research firm FlightGlobal.

Chinese airlines have 97 of the 737 MAX aircraft in service, more than a quarter of the total in operation worldwide, according to FlightGlobal.

Already, Boeing is taking steps to minimize the damage. It has postponed the debut of its new 777X jetliner, which was scheduled for this week, as it deals with the fallout from Sunday's disaster.

Airlines take action

US and European Union regulators have said they are closely monitoring the situation, but they have not yet taken steps to inspect or ground 737 MAX fleets. But Mary Schiavo, a CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general for the US Transportation Department, said it would be a good idea for Boeing or the airlines to ground the planes ahead of any government mandate.

"There are huge questions about this plane. There are already just the website are just exploding telling passengers how to check to see if their plane is one of the these planes and how to get off of them," she said on CNN's New Day. "So by getting on top of it, they're way ahead."

Some airlines took action on their own, however, creating a patchwork of responses that could sow confusion among consumers over the safety of the Boeing planes.

Ethiopian Airlines grounded its fleet of 737 MAX planes as an "extra safety precaution." Cayman Airways, the main carrier of the Cayman Islands, said it would do the same until "more information is received."

Other carriers including American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, FlyDubai, Norwegian Air and SilkAir said they would continue to operate their 737 MAX aircraft.

Boeing's blockbuster

The single-aisle Boeing 737 has been a workhorse on short- and medium-haul flights for decades. The 737 MAX is the latest version — and the company's bestselling aircraft by far. Airlines have ordered thousands of them.