Lebanon News

Beirut bans 737 MAX planes after Ethiopia crash

A grieving relative is held back by others at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed.

BEIRUT: Lebanon and the United States joined the rapidly growing list of countries grounding Boeing 737 MAX airplanes Wednesday, following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight Sunday that killed everyone on board.

The MAX 8 model, two of which have crashed under similar circumstances less than six months apart, is now banned by Lebanon, the U.S., Egypt, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China and all European Union nations, among others.

The cause of the crashes, and whether they are related, is unknown.

The black box recorders recovered from the Ethiopian Airlines plane will be sent to France for analysis, the Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses, the French air accident investigation agency, said Wednesday. “The Ethiopian authorities have asked BEA for its assistance in order to analyze” the two black boxes, the agency said, adding that they would be sent Thursday.

Ethiopian Airlines said Wednesday that Ethiopia did not have the equipment to read the black box data that could provide crucial information about what happened.

The Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 was less than four months old when it went down six minutes into a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi Sunday, disintegrating on impact and killing all 157 people on board.

Asrat said families of the victims from Kenya, China, America and Canada, as well as diplomatic staff from embassies, were visiting the crash site.

Experts have pointed out similarities with a crash in October, when an Indonesian Lion Air jet went down, killing 189 passengers and crew.

Although both planes were MAX 8s, Lebanon’s Directorate-General of Civil Aviation grounded Boeing’s entire 737 MAX line, which comes in MAX 7, MAX 8, MAX 9 and MAX 10 models.

DGCA Director-General Mohammad Chehabeddine told The Daily Star that he had issued a circular to all airlines saying the aircraft was not permitted to land in Lebanon or use the country’s airspace.

Fadi El-Hassan, the manager of Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, said no MAX airplanes were currently in Lebanon.

Public Works and Transportation Minister Youssef Fenianos told The Daily Star he had approved the ban Wednesday morning and that it had taken effect immediately.

Flydubai, which operates the MAX 8 as well as the Boeing 737-800, canceled two flights scheduled to arrive in Beirut Wednesday and another scheduled for Thursday morning. Chehabeddine said the reasons for the cancellations were unknown. The airline could not be reached for comment.

A travel agent based in Beirut who works with the airline told The Daily Star that it was at the discretion of flydubai whether to compensate the ticket holders for the canceled flight, and that the agency had not yet received any information from the company in this regard.

The other flights canceled Wednesday and Thursday at Beirut’s airport were two Air Arabia flights and Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines flights arriving to and departing from Beirut.

Neither Air Arabia nor Qatar Airways has the MAX 8 in its fleet, and Ethiopian Airlines grounded its remaining four models of the plane following Sunday’s crash.

In addition to government bans, Oman Air, Norwegian Air Shuttle and South Korean airline Eastar Jet were among the latest carriers to halt the use of the Boeing model. Norwegian Air Shuttle said it would seek compensation from Boeing.

Boeing has said it has no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies and does not intend to issue new recommendations about the aircraft to customers.

The MAX series is Boeing’s fastest-selling model, with more than 5,000 orders placed to date from about 100 customers.

About 350 MAX 8s are in service around the world.

After initially resisting calls to ground the MAX series, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would issue an emergency order to ground all flights of the 737 MAX 8 and the 737 MAX 9 planes.

“The safety of the American people and all peoples is our paramount concern,” Trump told reporters at the White House. - With agencies

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 14, 2019, on page 2.

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