More Countries & Airlines Ground 737 MAX

Filed Under: Garuda Indonesia, Other Airlines

Early Sunday morning an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX crashed shortly after takeoff, making it the second 737 MAX to crash during the initial phase of flight in the past several months (a Lion Air 737 MAX crashed after takeoff last October).

As I addressed in a follow-up post, at this point a lot of people are concerned about the 737 MAX, as there are a lot more questions than answers. We don’t know for sure if there’s anything actually wrong with the plane, or if there’s anything wrong with the way pilots are trained to fly the plane. And if either of those are the case, we don’t know what exactly the problem is.

With about 350 737 MAX planes flying nowadays, there’s talk about the possibility of the planes being grounded until investigators figure out what’s happening. After all, the last thing anyone would want to see is a tragedy like this again.

Less than 24 hours after the Ethiopian Airlines incident, China banned domestic airlines from operating the 737 MAX, meaning that nearly 100 737 MAX aircraft are grounded in China.

While they were first, they’re not the only ones, as we’re now seeing both individual airlines and aviation authorities grounding the plane.

Cayman Airways grounds the 737 MAX

To my knowledge, Cayman Airways has become the first airline to voluntarily ground the 737 MAX. The airline has two of these planes in their fleet. Here’s what Cayman Airways’ CEO had to say:

“While the cause of this sad loss is undetermined at this time, we stand by our commitment to putting the safety of our passengers and crew first by maintaining complete and undoubtable safe operations, and as such, we have taken the decision to suspend operations of both our new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, effective from Monday March 11, 2019, until more information is received.”

Cayman Airways has a fleet of just five 737s, so to see them ground two of those will have a great impact on their operations, but also shows dedication to erring on the side of caution.

Indonesia grounds the 737 MAX

Indonesia has become the second country after China to temporarily ground the 737 MAX. Currently there are 11 737 MAX aircraft flying in Indonesia, including one belonging to Garuda Indonesia, and 10 belonging to Lion Air.

Authorities have said that the plane is grounded until they can get a better sense of what’s going on.

What other airlines are saying

This all happened over a weekend, so I’ll be curious to see how this unfolds today, given that it’s a Monday (not that the day of the week should impact something as important as this).

As we’ve seen, some countries and airlines are taking immediate action and grounding planes just to be on the safe side. Other airlines are indicating that they remain confident in the 737 MAX:

  • FlyDubai has said that they “remain confident in the airworthiness of [their] fleet”
  • American, has said that they “have full confidence in the aircraft and [their] crew members, who are the best and most experienced in the industry”

Personally I feel pretty confident that in the next 24-48 hours we’ll see a lot more of these planes grounded…

Comments
  1. I think you meant to say less than 24 hours (rather than 24 months)? hehe 😉 At this point, if an airline really is putting the safety of their passengers and crew first, then grounding the planes is the right decision until the investigation is completed.

  2. I fly fairly often and while I wouldn’t change an existing booking I wouldn’t book onto a flight knowing it was a 737-MAX if there was an alternative available. The uncertainty worries me more than if we just knew what happened.

  3. They should be grounded. The principle of prudence prevails here. Maybe there is a human pilot mistake involved, but clearly the change in position of the engines and subsequent autopilot programming changes may have also been involved.

  4. How many thousand flights have these a/c flown that didn’t crash?

    I would imagine that the pilots would have a lot of say with respect to whether or not these planes should keep flying.

  5. Cayman has had an easy decision to ground all their fleet since it’s only two B737 MAX. But Southwest, AA and Flydubai operate already tens of those and grounding all of them means a disaster. Unless it’s the local authorities that take such a decision (such as FAA and GCAA). In such a case airlines would remain with little or no choice.

  6. Ethiopian Airlines also grounded their B737 Max 8 – fortunately (I’m travelling PNR-ADD-FRA later this week)

  7. I can’t imagine boarding one of these planes until the issue has been identified and resolved. Why risk it? Seriously.

  8. FlyDubai’s problem isn’t about the fleet. It’s about their crew’s roster. Remember Rostov-on-Don? Does anyone think they’ve changed their working culture since then?

  9. @raksiam , good question and the answer is not much. This is a fairly new plane with less than 2 years of service.

    The cause of Lion air ‘s crash has been more or less determined. It was at least partially caused by autopilot error. So, for those are confident, they are confident that their pilot will override erroneous signal? I feel worried.

  10. @Ray

    The crash incident of Rostov wasn’t caused by tiredness as you may imply. The manoeuvre was perfectly allright and it had been also approved by the tower. The weather was nasty and no flight should have landed in those circumstances. As simple as that.

  11. Micheal O’Leary of Ryanair has said that they won’t be grounding any of theirs once they receive them next month. Unless something else comes up, perhaps.

  12. Its kind of shocking how many airlines clearly make this decision solely based on financial aspects.

  13. I’m a vocal advocate that flying is monumentally safer than driving. But in this case, the sensible precaution is to ground these planes until the investigation determines otherwise. They are simply too new and these incidents were so close together with apparently similar causes. We had a flight turn back from New Zealand to China a few weeks ago because someone didn’t tick a box, which demonstrates how seriously these things are taken.

  14. How many incidents have there been where a 737-Max experienced these problems, but the pilots successfully overcame the problem?

    That might be a clue as to whether it is a pilot issue or a design issue

  15. Curious if the US carriers various pilot unions will call for a grounding? You know the US airlines won’t voluntarily.

  16. Does anybody have an experience or prediction about how AA and others are handling or will handle a passenger request for a change of reservation or refund of a nonrefundable fare to avoid flying in a 737 MAX?

    It took 3 Comet 1 crashes in 1952 and only 1 Concorde crash in 2000 for the types’ Certificate of Navigability to be cancelled. In this case, two crashes is awfully close to the threshold. Nobody, and especially Boeing, has an interest to see the “MAX” in 737 MAX stand for MAX CASUALTIES.

    The issue is not whether the plane is safe when operated properly. I have little doubt that crews at AA, Southwest, large Chinese airlines and Ryanair (yes, even them, they mistreat passengers, not planes) have the proper training and know what to expect / how to react in unusual situations.

    The danger is with the smaller operators who may have one, two or three units and are located in parts of the world where the information is passed on… or not, and regulations or AWDs are enforced… or not. These airlines may constitute time bombs for Boeing as a third crash WOULD doom the type for a much longer time than a short suspension as was the case for the 787 battery problems.

  17. Where there’s smoke there’s fire…
    grounding those airplanes can cost airlines a lot of money but it’s also a wise decision.
    Are they waiting for another crash? not wise… better safe than sorry.

  18. I am booked on AC 737 Max from YUL to SFO. I called air canada yesterday to switch flights via YYZ to avoid the 737 Max 8.

    They would not make the change unless i paid a fare difference, even though it was for the same date and roughly the same time. I am Elite 75K and the phone agent, despite putting me on hold to talk to her supervisors at least twice, could not waive the fee.

    I changed my flights, paid the fare difference, and immediately wrote a complaint to Air Canada requesting the refund.

    I am not going to take chances, and I will not wait two hours or two weeks for them to decide, or FAA to impose, a grounding of the fleet, and then have to scramble for my flight.

    So far, even though its early days, not impressed with the customer service efforts at Air Canada.

  19. So AA and AC fly the Max Casualty plane what other North America. Carrier flies thenm? Does Delta it United? I agree with the majority here I would not fly one at this point.

  20. As far as the U.S. – grounding them would not impact all that much. Some. But it would not be anywhere near as financially damaging as if it was the 737-800 or A-320. Southwest has the most at 36 aircraft and would have the most difficulty. But after a few days I imagine, with adjustments to a few routes and utilization, would be fine. American has 24 and could easily adjust. United just has 14 in service.

    So why not ground them? While I appreciate that the U.S. Govt. does not want to seem knee jerk when it comes to Boeing I still think these two accidents are enough reason to be vigilant and will cause little in the way of disruptions until more answers are found.

  21. That kind of “blind” confidence is stupid. Boeing should voluntarily ground all 737 Max itself. Remember United 585, China Southern 3943, US Airways 427, Eastwind 517, all these 737s crashed for the same reason.

  22. @Nicola Siotto – Cayman Airlines has only 9 planes in their fleet. I’m pretty sure grounding 2 of them is also not easy for them.

  23. A great way to show your general irritation for Boeing’s arrogance is to book a flight on JetBlue, Frontier, or Spirit 😉

  24. Flight attendants union has just announced that they will not have to fly on the Max if they choose not to for personal fear. But no waiver for passengers, lol

  25. Financial greed by the airlines is overwhelming in this case. Their claims about safety of their passengers ring very hollow,.

  26. the planes should have already been grounded. will it take 3 before the FAA acts?

    what happened to six sigma safety?

  27. This issue with the 737 Max is really scary. I am sure that there is some technical issue with this aircraft.. Im booked on a flight from Asuncion (Paraguay) to Sao Paulo (Brazil) later this mnth and just checked what aircraft they will be using. Its an Airbus A320. Phewww.

  28. Brazilian airlines GOL also grounded theirs, including ALL flights from Brazil to the US, which only the MAX did….

  29. I love all the self-appointed experts here who don’t know a damn thing about airplanes (blog owner especially) proclaiming that this aircraft is a death-trap.

    Scared little children: the NTSB is a dispassionate group of professionals that are a bit more qualified to make a judgement of the probable cause than your geniuses who know all about what nuts and champagne are being served up front. They will investigate and make recommendations (the probable cause, from a statistical standpoint is most likely to turn out to be pilot error, in this case possibly made worse by lack of appropriate training).

    Don’t piss yourselves worrying about your next flight, spoiled, entitled children.

  30. As it looks like we’re seeing the cascading effect of more airlines and aviation authorities around the world grounding the MAX8, if we arrive at every non-US airline having them grounded, I will hold a very negative opinion of AA and WN if they don’t voluntary ground them before the FAA does. Not that I hold a high opinion of either right now, but I’d probably decrease my custom of both even further. The plane is probably safe to keep flying, but it is just the right thing to do as a precaution to ground it. Look at the 787-8 with the global grounding for weeks after battery issues in the early stages! In that case, not a single plane had crashed, let alone 2. Still to this day no major 787-8 incidents. It just tells you, the MAX8 needs to be THOROUGHLY examined before having continued airworthiness!

  31. Completely shocked at how many airlines are continuing flying the Max8 today. I was sure there would be an avalanche of carriers grounding these planes by today, Tues 13th. Looks like consumer are going to have to try and ensure their own safety and change flights where ever possible. Problem is you can’t guarantee it wont be a Max8 at bording time as they can change plane type without notice. At least you can up the possibility of not flying in one substantialy by not actualy booking a flight with one. Absolutely disgusting behaviour by Airlines putting our safety second to their profits. I hope they have major booking disruptions and empty planes for their lack of concern.

  32. I did some calculations regarding 737-MAX safety records, and results are , quite frankly, shocking.
    Let’s take a look at two very similar documents published on the Boeing (ha!) and airbus websites which cover aviation safety statistics from 1959 till 2017 (Modern Jet era)
    I will publish links in the next post.
    So, In 2010s Yearly ‘fatal accident rate per million flights’ was somewhere around 0.1 -0.2
    In other words, one in every 5-10M flights was going to crash.
    Now let’s look at 737-MAX record. There is no statistics for 2018 and 2019, so I will do some ‘back on the napkin’ estimate.
    For simplicity I will start from 2018, since there were very few MAX deliveries in 2017. You can add 10% if you want to compensate for this omission
    2018 started with 70 737-MAX in service, and, according to Wikipedia there were about 350 MAXes in service until 2 days ago.
    Let’s assume that on average there were 250 737-MAXs flying every day (some of them were delivered closer to the end of 2018, so I am not using 350 number)
    250 planes x 6 flights a day x 420 days (Jan 1 2018 – March 10 2019) = 630 000 flights that Boeing 737-MAX aircraft performed since Jan 1 2018.
    There were 2 fatal accident, and that’s per 0.63M flights
    2 / 0.63 = 3.2 fatal accident rate per million flights.
    Compare that to 0.1-0.2 in the past years for the rest of the aviation world.
    We are talking about aircraft that is 15-30 TIMES MORE DANGEROUS to fly than any other modern western built commercial aircraft. Not 15%, 15 TIMES.
    Ironically, Boeing’s document gives us a good prospective to all major aircraft types going back to 1959. So in 59 years there are only TWO jets that were more dangerous – DC-9 (4.0) and Boeing 707 (4.3)
    50 years old Boeing 727 (0.73) , DC-10 (1.29) L1011 (0.56) are way safer than ultra-new 737-MAX (3.2)
    I am not even going to bring accident rates numbers from safe modern aircrafts. They are in 0.0xxx territory.
    I would appreciate if anyone points to flaws in my calculations.

  33. My husband and I are booked on a 737 Max 8 Iceland Air flight this coming Saturday Minneapolis to Iceland. Haven’t heard a peep about Iceland Air. Has anyone else?

  34. 2 accidents per 280 aircraft. That is 1 in 140 odds – no thanks.

    Add Australia to the list of countries banning the 737Max from entering Australian airspace

  35. Max or mini..I just don’t like the 737
    A jinxed number..Didn’t Ethiopia Airlines lose a 737 in 2010 above Beirut ? I avoid them if possible.
    BTW FlyDubai was going to sell a lot of their older 737..and buy some more Max..
    Instead of Airbus..

  36. Boeing or Airbus, they both crash. That’s not the issue. The issue here is 2 accidents in a few months, with 2 brand new planes, of a model with just about 350 planes in the air. Like someone said above, that’s huge….again….with 2 brand new planes.

    When you see the stats of other modern aircrafts, you have zero accidents with the A380, zero accidents with the A350 and zero accidents with the 787.

  37. 23 airlines and counting have now grounded their 737 Max aircraft, obviously at huge expense and inconvenience to themselves. Only Western Europe and North America ( who would claim the moral high ground on safety standards ) have not yet. As long as Boeing and the FAA try and pretend it’s business as usual for the 737 Max they cannot be credible! Money and politics is coming before safety.

  38. @Mauricio Matos

    I beg you pardon, but really you wish to compare the number of operating 737 with the other types? In March 2018 Boeing celebrated the 10,000 B737 out of their factory after 60 years of producing the first one. We can’t possibly make comparison with anything else. It is by far the most popular and sold commercial jet in history. If this issue is tackled and solved, this aircraft remains the most important aircraft flying with no competitor whatsoever.

  39. @Nicola

    We’re talking about the 737 MAX!!! It’s a specific model and not the 737 as a whole. According to a lot of people who know their business, the problem with the MAX is exactly that. Trying to make a modern aircraft out of a ver old frame. When you compare with the 737 MAX, the numbers are not that different. Heck, there are a lot more 787 in the air.

  40. @Mauricio Matos

    There are over 350 of them in the air and two had accidents. And in my opinion Boeing has already understood what is the issue and right now their technicians are out at the airlines updating the software. I think the issue is under control it seems.

  41. The difference between The Wisdom of Crowds and the Madness of Crowds is just one thing: uncorrelated errors. The average guess of a random group of people of how many jelly beans are in a jar is better than individual forecasts because the errors are random and average out. Emotional baggage and biases makes stock market forecasts rather less accurate.

    As a heuristic, fading emotional responses to low probability events will serve you well (especially when it’s just table stakes). These crashes were in no way uncorrelated errors. Both crashes involved pilots unable to stop the aircraft from going nose-down into the ground. Whether that was because of a design flaw, a software error, or poor pilot training is *wholly immaterial* as it relates to the risk of dying (a “high consequence” event).

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