Safety experts, lawmakers and organizations are questioning Boeing’s 737 Max 8 aircraft after a second fatal crash in five months.
An Ethiopian Airlines flight heading to Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday, March 10 plunged to the ground shortly after take-off killing all 157 people on board.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency order grounding all of Boeing Co.'s Max 8 and Max 9 jets on Wednesday after numerous airlines already had announced bans.
"The FAA's 'wait and see' attitude risks lives as well as the safety reputation of the US aviation industry,” Paul Hudson, FlyersRights.org president and FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee member, said earlier this week. “Even assuming this design defect should not by itself take the aircraft out of service, the failure to warn airlines and pilots of the new feature, and the inadequacy of training requirements, necessitate an immediate temporary grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8."
Airlines and authorities have temporarily grounded the jets in China, Europe, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and several other nations. Two-thirds of the Max 8 aircrafts currently flying been taken out of service as of Sunday, The New York Times reported.
The first Max 8 crash occurred in October 2018 off the coast of Indonesia. All 189 passengers aboard the aircraft were killed.
Investigators discovered that pilots from the October Lion Air crash were unable to override the maneuvering character augmentation system (MCAS), a safety feature of the aircraft. The automatic control system automatically guides the Max 8 nose down if it determines the flight is at risk.
"While we do not know the causes of these crashes, serious questions have been raised about whether these planes were pressed into service without additional pilot training in order to save money,” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said in a statement.
Although the investigation into Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash is far from over, early signs indicate the same issue might have contributed to this latest incident.
Major airlines with “strong safety records” operated both Max 8 jets that crashed. Both the October’s Lion Air aircraft and the Ethiopian airlines flight went down less than 15 minutes after take-off, according to a CNN report.
President Donald Trump surmised that technology may be to blame.
“Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly,” President Trump tweeted. “Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!”
Boeing released a statement, saying it has been “working closely” with the FAA on a software enhancement for its fleet that will be released by April.
“Safety is a core value for everyone at Boeing and the safety of our airplanes, our customers’ passengers and their crews is always our top priority,” the company posted on its website. “The 737 Max is a safe airplane that was designed, built and supported by our skilled employees who approach their work with the utmost integrity.”