Report: Boeing 737 MAX Grounded In China

Filed Under: Air China, China Eastern

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.

It goes without saying that the impact of this on some airlines’ operations would be massive, since a grounding could potentially last for a very long time. At the same time, no matter what the implications are, it seems like erring on the side of caution might be a good idea.

Well, it looks like the first authorities are taking steps towards grounding the aircraft type.

Caijing is reporting that the Civil Aviation Administration of China has grounded the Boeing 737 MAX. It’s reported that all domestic Chinese airlines have been asked to cease operations with the plane, and as of now no 737 MAX planes are flying in China.

As of now there are nearly 100 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in the fleets of Chinese airlines, including for Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, and Xiamen Air.

It will be interesting to see if other airlines and aviation authorities follow China’s lead…

(Tip of the hat to @ShopSmart247)

  1. @Mike That was my reaction as well. Not that it isn’t without merit, but I’m not at all surprised China led the way.

  2. Wow China actually cares about it’s people. The FAA should have grounded the 737 Max last November. There’s so many citizens of different countries involved this time Boeing is not going to be able to keep secret the design flaw of engine placement on the 737 max.

  3. I am the LAST person to be alarmist or irrational when it comes to aviation safety.
    That is, in fact, my career.
    That said, I think this grounding is warranted. We need to know more, before continuing to put lives at risk.
    For context: we grounded the 787 after ZERO crashes… and they were grounded for MONTHS.
    It’s past time for the MAX to be grounded as well.

  4. Solid decision. Should be done worldwide until Boeing takes responsibility and resolves this problem. This goes beyond just trying to make profits. Ethics and safety are in play here.

  5. Good on China for taking the right step, hopefully others follow suit before another batch of people’s families lose their lives.

  6. I hope all the airlines does this. I am a little surprised that China is lending the way. I think part of it politics since Boeing is a US company.

  7. @James oh come on! it’s not about politics. How would you feel if you find yourself or your family flying 737 MAX this morning

  8. Saying it is politically motivated by China is fair, but only if you also agree that if the FAA is the last to ground it that is even more politically motivated…

  9. I have a problem with an NPR reporter saying this morning how “safe” Ethiopian Airlines is. Be it the 737 Max airframe or others Ethiopian has had so many safety concerns the UK & EU have been known as have been the Americans to halt flights in & out before. But I digress to this. Commercial aviation authorities need to look beyond the airframe and its manufacturer to also include the training programs these pilots are goung thru specific to the Max to ensure that training is up to standards too. Whether is the 737 Max or 788-8 I personally avoid both at this point.

  10. Not sure if Lion Air uses their 737 Maxs to fly to China, but have to imagine that Lion Air is under pressure to ground their 737 Max fleet as well at this point.

  11. BTW, even though they seem to be different problems, wasn’t the Norwegian plane that got stuck in Iran a brand new 737 Max as well (couple of months old)? Not a good look for Boeing.

  12. The politic part of this decision is not to give a F about any politic IMO. Granted there is existing political and economical conflicts between the US and China, grounding a Boeing fleet may be seen as a leverage for the trade talk but can also be seen as an aggressive move since China is leading the way. The actual political impact of this decision goes way beyond our speculation.

    That being said, I think this is purely based on safety concerns. AFAIK China has one of the toughest safety standard for commercial aviation. We have 2 fetal hall-loss in less than a year on the MAX8 and we have no idea what’s going on, this is enough ground to suspend the aircraft. I hope Westjet and Air Canada can do the same.

  13. chinese living in china. when the news broke out, everyone around was talking if this type would be grounded. before the autorities announced the decision, many people already talked about how to check the plane type for your flight and make sure to avoid the new max.
    all my sympathies to the airliners. they would lose a lot of money, especially those non-state-owned airliners.

  14. Probably it’s politically motivated, but I think it’s also a solid decision.

    Two accidents that look quite similar(at least from what we currently know) – in short time frame between the two. One of them involved a quite solid airline – Ethiopian Airlines. Nothing is sure at this point, but we now have a good reason to doubt 737-Max safety.

  15. Airbus 380 –
    15 years in service, 250 planes , 0 lives lost

    Airbus 350s –
    4 years in service, 250 planes , 0 lives losses

    737-max –
    1.5 years in service, 350 planes, 2 fatal crashes (300+ souls)

    One crash could have been a fluke. Second crash in 5 months ? I don’t think so

  16. In mainland China there are currently 97 (not 60) B737 MAX planes in service, and all of them have been grounded.

  17. I also looked at Boeing 777 safety record …
    So, – 22! years in service. 1600 planes delivered.

    There are only two incidents where aircraft and all passengers/crew members were lost (both in 2014)-
    1- Malaysia Airlines 370 – still a complete mystery
    2- MH17 – plane was simply shut down by anti-aircraft missile launched by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine , so it has nothing to do with the aircraft itself.

    There were few smaller incidents with some lives lost, but you cant even remotely compare safety records of 777 and 737-MAX

  18. Good move by China to ensure the safety the safety of airline passengers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Boeing is working behind the scenes to downplay safety concerns regarding the 737max. We all know how shady American businesses are.

  19. There is a question, that really goes on my mind: In both cases the plane crashed when the pilots tried a turn around in that critical situation (to get back to the airport, of course). Did boeing ever test what happens in that case? Stalling, Malfunction AND an attempted turn around? Grounding is the only logical solution to me right now – what would be the alternative? Waiting till the next one crashes, just to be sure? Of course FAA would never do that unless one from an american airline crashes into something like a shopping mall (in America of course), killing hundreds on the plane and on the ground. Share-holders are the only ones that count in the US.

  20. I’m scheduled to fly the 737 Max on Hainan Air from Bangkok to Beijing tonight, connecting to Chicago. Hoping it goes hitch free. Also, I’m booked on the same Ethiopian Air flight that went down this coming September. Wonder if they’ll change the plane type and flight number.

  21. March 11, 2019 at 3:05 am
    “How many whites died? That is the key to know if it will be grounded in the USA.”

    That is a stupid racist comment.

  22. @ Ron: My understanding is that no Chinese 737Max is allowed in the air after 6pm Beijing time tonight. Your flight might change equipment or be cancelled. Better check.

  23. SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The number of deaths caused by workplace accidents in China fell 12.1 percent to 38,000 in 2017 compared to the previous year, state media reported on Tuesday, citing figures from the country’s safety watchdog.

  24. China just fired a shot in the Trade War. Boeing is one of the biggest exporters in the US and the 737 Max is 80% of Boeing’s order book. If countries start grounding the 737-Max airlines can start cancelling their contracts as all of them specify the plane needs to be certified to fly. They can even claim penalties from Boeing.
    The tariffs will be coming off soon.
    This is why the stock market is up today even though Boeing itself has fallen 10%

  25. Those of you claiming that this is all about politics… did you know that the 737 MAX in China were produced locally in China at the Boeing Zhoushan factory?

  26. Those who say China’s grounding of the 737 Max is politically motivated just sound silly. How about two major crashes in 6 months as the motivating factor? If China did the grounding for no good reason then that may be politically motivated. Why didn’t China ground the planes 8 months ago when the trade war started?

    The ruling party survives on perceptions of legitimacy. If there was a crash in China of the 737Max after the two previous crashes, it would incite social unrest. Why take the risk?

    There are valid examples of China behaving badly in trade, this is not one of them.

  27. China has one of the toughest safety standards for commercial aviation and grounding would cause heavy financial loss to Chinese airlines. On the other hand, tell me how FAA would be the last to ground MAX is not political.

  28. The 737 Max (7M8) crashes should be a wake up for folks who think new aircraft are inherently safer than old ones.

    Remember the scene on the dock in Jaws where Mrs Kintner slaps the bejesus out of Chiel Brody? She found out that Brody allowed the beaches to remain open even though he had good reason to suspect the waters were unsafe. Brody and the mayor lacked the guts to do the prudent, although totally inconvenient and extremely costly, thing and close the beaches. Her boy paid the price with his life. Her boy was dead, and at that point there wasn’t a damned thing Brody could do about it.

    If another 7M8 goes down, somebody ought to go upside the head of the FAA administrator and airline execs who lack the courage and conviction to do what they know needs to be done.

  29. @Lucky

    “After all, the last thing anyone would want to see is a tragedy like this again.”
    The last thing some would want to see is a dent in their profits.
    And if the next accident is theirs, they are insured.
    Actually, I could envision an insurance company refusing to pay because they failed to ground their aircraft.

  30. @ Peter

    I didn’t know those 737 MAX were pregnant… or did you mean “Fatal hull losses”?

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