Donald Trump finally succumbed to the pressure by announcing on Wednesday that all Boeing 737 MAX 8s would be grounded, rallying to international consensus on this new American aircraft after two tragic accidents in less than five months.
“We will urgently ban all flights of the 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 9,” said the US president from the White House. “The safety of Americans, and all passengers, is our top priority,” he said.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg reacted, renewing his “total confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX” while affirming that the recommendation to temporarily immobilize this fleet of aircraft was at the initiative of the manufacturer to reassure the general public.
The decision to ground the Boeing 737 MAX is justified by new satellite data, collected, analyzed and provided by Canada showing that the trajectory of Ethiopian plane that crashed on Sunday has similarities with that of Lion Air, crashed at the end of October, announced the FAA, the American air regulator.
“I made that decision (…) independently,” said Dan Elwell, FAA’s acting head of CNBC, assuring that he had not been pressured.
Washington has announced the flight ban shortly after Canada, which until Wednesday was the only country to accompany the Americans in their refusal to suspend airs this aircraft.
Earlier, the Canadian authorities had themselves revealed the gathering of new information suggesting that the 157 dead tragedy in Addis Ababa had something in common with the deadly crash of the Indonesian company that killed 189 people. people.
The experts compared the profile of the two flights and found “parallels” in their trajectories exceeding “a threshold of similarity as to the possible causes of the crash in Ethiopia,” said Transport Minister Marc Garneau.
The investigation of the Lion Air accident has for the moment implicated a malfunction on the flight stabilization system designed to prevent the aircraft from stalling, the “MCAS” (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System). The MCAS, designed specifically for the 737 MAX to overcome larger and heavier engines than those fitted to the 737 of the older generation, puts the aircraft in “dive”, due to a mistaken assessment that the aircraft is in stall.
Canada unveiled this information while several US pilots themselves reported in October and November, on an anonymous database from NASA, having experienced a malfunction of the MCAS.
However, they managed to avoid an accident because they had been informed and trained to deal with this potential incident.
Black boxes decrypted in France
Since Monday, countries and air authorities in Asia, Europe, the Middle East have refused one after another access to their air corridors at 737 MAX.
All eyes are now focused on the two black boxes of the Ethiopian apparatus, which alone can give the precise sequence of events.
Found on Monday, they will be transferred Thursday to the Office of Investigations and Analysis (BEA) French to be analyzed at the request of Ethiopia that does not have the necessary equipment for their reading.
The decryption of these boxes containing the flight parameters, for one, and the conversations and alarms of the cockpit, for the other, as well as the interpretation of these data, requires a great deal of expertise.
FAA’s Elwell said they were “damaged” during the accident, with the MAX 8 being impacted on the ground.
In Ethiopia, relatives of the victims – Kenyan, Chinese, American and Canadian – of this flight that ran from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, surrendered Wednesday at the scene of the accident, a field 60 km east of the capital Ethiopian.
In an interview with CNN, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam, who also noted the similarities with the Lion Air disaster, assured that the pilots of the aircraft had received new training on the features of the 737 MAX 8 after the accident of the Indonesian company.
As in the case of Lion Air, the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing crash occurred shortly after take-off, and the aircraft experienced uneven climbs and descents just after taking off.
The flight ban for a recent airplane is an unprecedented snub in the history of civil aviation. However, it should not seriously disrupt global air traffic. Some 370 devices of this family are flying around the world today. Approximately 19,000 aircraft of at least 100 passengers are in service internationally, all models combined, according to data from Airbus.
Shortly after the FAA announcement, Miami airport passengers, who had to fly on a 737 MAX, waited patiently to board another plane. The day before, customers had urged on Twitter to suspend these devices in the name of the precautionary principle.