Breaking: The European Union Suspends All 737 MAX Operations

EASA has issued an Airworthiness Directive suspending Boeing 737 MAX operations within Europe from 1900UTC. This stops EU operators from using the aircraft. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has also issued a Safety Directive. This, also valid from 1900UTC, suspends 737 MAX operations from third country operators, into, out of, or within the European Union. The EU 737 MAX Suspensions will override any by individual EASA members.

This action comes following several EASA member states such as the United Kingdom and Germany issuing their own bans on Boeing 737 MAX flights. The latest EASA suspension affects both the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and the 737 MAX 9.

EU 737 Max Suspension
The EASA Emergency Airworthiness Directive. Source: EASA

Why Ground Aircraft?

Many nations and airlines have been grounding the Boeing 737 MAX in the wake of Sunday’s tragic accident. While no firm link has been established between the Lion Air crash of October and the Ethiopian Airlines crash, they do appear to have taken place under similar circumstances.

In October a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX crashed into the sea shortly after takeoff. It appears as though an inaccurate reading from the angle of attack indicator caused the aircraft to trim nose down. This action was prompted by the MCAS system and was difficult for the flight crew to overcome.

EASA grounds 737 MAX
TUI earlier suspended Boeing 737 MAX operations following advice from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority. Photo: Boeing

What is MCAS?

The Boeing 737 MAX has larger, more fuel-efficient engines than previous models. These were moved further forward and higher than previously. This meant that the handling characteristics of the aircraft changed. Boeing introduced the MCAS system to counteract this. MCAS stands for Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System.

The Air Current states that the systems description to pilots is given as “Its sole function is to trim the stabiliser nose down”. It appears that in both the recent Boeing 737 MAX crashes, the aircraft has pitched nose down as power was reduced after take off. In the Lion Air case, the pilots were unable to maintain control of the aircraft. It seems as though this could have happened in the Ethiopian case too, given the similarities.

Pressure On FAA

The pressure will really be on the FAA as the number of countries grounding the aircraft continues to rise. In the past hour, the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation has also grounded the Boeing 737 MAX. With so many nations grounding the aircraft many are asking “Why does the FAA say the aircraft is safe when EASA doesn’t?”

Simple Flying wouldn’t be surprised if the FAA does decide to ground the aircraft, however, for the time being, the FAA, Boeing, and a number of American Boeing 737 MAX operators continue to defend the Boeing 737 MAX’s safety.

Last Updated 18:42 UTC