EASA Suspends Boeing 737 Max Operations In and To Europe

 - March 12, 2019, 2:39 PM
One of five TUI Boeing 737 Max 8s now grounded by the UK CAA and EASA approaches Tenerife South Airport on a flight from Manchester. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY-SA) by Hawkeye UK)

The European Aviation Safety Agency on Tuesday followed several more countries’ civil aviation authorities in closing its airspace to Boeing 737 Max operations in reaction to the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 crash that killed all 157 people on board. At 19:00 CET, Cologne-based EASA published an Airworthiness Directive suspending all flight operations of all Boeing 737-8s and 737-9s in Europe. EASA also has published a Safety Directive suspending all commercial Max flights performed by third-country operators into, within, or out of the EU.

“EASA is continuously analyzing the data as it becomes available,” it said, stressing that the accident investigation continues and that it remains too early to draw any conclusions about the cause. Ethiopian authorities lead the accident investigation with the support of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. EASA has offered its assistance in supporting the investigation.

The UK civil aviation authority (CAA) was the first in Europe to issue instructions to stop any commercial passenger Max 8 and Max 9 flights from any operator arriving, departing, or overflying UK airspace, ahead of the EU-wide decision by EASA. In its statement, the UK CAA called the decision “a precautionary measure” given the lack of information from the Ethiopian airliner’s flight data recorder. Several EU countries followed the UK and banned the model from their airspace. The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said it decided to temporarily suspend the operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft into and out of its airspace, "taking account of the unprecedented loss of two Boeing 737 Max in recent months.” Also, France's DGAC and Belgium’s aviation authority decided to ban Boeing 737 Max airplanes in their respective airspace, while German transport minister Andreas Scheuer announced a similar measure on German broadcaster n-tv.

Airlines that on Monday had insisted their Max operations would continue as normal changed their positions today. “Following the decision by the relevant aviation regulatory bodies to temporarily suspend operations of Boeing 737 Max, Norwegian will not operate any flights with this aircraft type until further notice,” the Oslo-based low-cost carrier confirmed. “All aircraft that are currently airborne will continue to destination or return to home base,” it added, noting it has begun to reallocate its fleet with other aircraft types, provide re-bookings to other flights, and combine flights to minimize passenger inconvenience. With 18 examples in its fleet, Norwegian ranks as one of the largest Max operators in Europe. It deploys the type also on routes from Ireland to the U.S. East Coast. Also TUI Group airlines and Icelandair grounded their Max fleets and Turkish Airlines announced it would halt operations of its 12 Max 8s as of March 13, until further notice.

In other parts of the world, countries including Oman and Malaysia joined the ban already in place in China, Singapore, and Australia.