SAN DIEGO -- Countries around the world are grounding Boeing's 737 MAX 8 aircraft after two of those models crashed just months apart, c. Controversy now surrounds the decision not to ground them in the United States.
Airline customers are now learning more about what some aviation experts are calling substantial similarities between the deadly plane crash in Ethiopia and the one in Indonesia. The plane involved in both crashes was Boeing's 737 MAX 8. Despite other countries grounding the aircraft, the FAA is not following their lead.
Acting FAA Administrator Daniel K. Elwell issued the following statement:
"The FAA continues to review extensively all available data and aggregate safety performance from operators and pilots of the Boeing 737 MAX. Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft. Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action. In the course of our urgent review of data on the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, if any issues affecting the continued airworthiness of the aircraft are identified, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action."
Aviation expert and former commercial airline pilot Bill Hensley told FOX 5 he would not feel comfortable flying the 737 MAX 8 at this time.
“Because we still have a lot of questions, remaining out of an abundance of caution I think they need to ground the airplane,” Hensley said. “I think everybody’s questions should be answered before that airplane flies again."
According to Ethiopian Airlines, the pilot of the downed plane reported "flight control problems" before the crash. Hensley said he pilot could have experienced what is speculated to have happened before the Lion Air crash.
“What we think possibly happened in the Lion Air crash is the computer for the MCAS. This pitch control system, got inaccurate signals,” Hensley said.
Hensley explains the system may have been causing the nose of the plane to go down when pilots were fighting to get it back up. Aviation experts are questioning if the pilots knew how to override the system and take control of the plane.
Southwest Airlines said it flies 34 737 MAX 8 planes and American Airlines has 24.
American Airlines sent FOX 5 the following statement:
"American Airlines extends our condolences to the families and friends of those onboard Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. The safety and security of our team members and our customers remains our top priority. We will continue to comply with all FAA guidelines, and believe the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft is safe and that our pilots are well-trained and well-equipped to operate it. The FAA today reiterated that they continue to extensively review data from multiple operators and pilots who fly the 737 MAX, and have found no basis to order grounding of the aircraft. American also regularly monitors aircraft performance and safety parameters across our entire fleet, including extensive flight data collection. That data and analysis, along with our strong safety record and the FAA’s guidance, give us confidence in the safety of our fleet. Our Flight, Flight Service, Tech Ops and our Safety teams, along with the heads of our pilot and flight attendant unions, continue to closely monitor the accident investigation, and are eager to have a better understanding of the cause of this recent accident. We also remain in close coordination with the FAA, NTSB and Boeing, as well as other operators of this aircraft type as the safety of all crew members and customers is a priority shared by all airlines. We continue to operate our 24 MAX 8 aircraft – our standard policy for changes to a reservation will still apply."
Southwest Airlines also sent a statement:
"As the investigation of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 progresses, we are staying in close contact with Boeing, the FAA, and other airlines to learn the cause of the accident. We operate 34 MAX 8 aircraft in our fleet of more than 750 Boeing 737s. We remain confident in the safety and airworthiness of the MAX 8. We don’t have any changes planned to our MAX 8 operations. Additionally, we are not issuing refunds of non-refundable fares though we are working with Customers individually who wish to rebook their flight to another aircraft type."