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Monday 11 November 2019
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GROUNDED

TT flights affected as Boeing Max 8s

GHOST TOWN: The check-in counter for American Airlines (AA) was deserted yesterday after the airlines primary carries, the Boeing 737 Max 8 aeroplane was ordered grounded by the US Federal Aviation Authority after a Max 8 crashed in Ethiopia last Sunday killing all on board. PHOTOS BY ROGER JACOB
GHOST TOWN: The check-in counter for American Airlines (AA) was deserted yesterday after the airlines primary carries, the Boeing 737 Max 8 aeroplane was ordered grounded by the US Federal Aviation Authority after a Max 8 crashed in Ethiopia last Sunday killing all on board. PHOTOS BY ROGER JACOB

AMERICAN Airlines (AA) flights to and from Piarco International Airport have been grounded, following a directive from the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) yesterday afternoon as the worldwide fallout over safety concerns from the Boeing 737 Max 8 continues.

The TT Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) last night in a notice also upheld the FAA's decision, issuing a notice prohibiting the Max 8 from use in civil aviation operations "within and over Trinidad and Tobago until and unless found by the Director General of Civil Aviation to be in a condition that is safe for use."

The FAA was the last major civil aviation authority (CAA) to advise that the Max 8 be taken out of service, after the European Union, China, India, Australia, Canada, Brazil and other countries all halted flights of Max 8s after Sunday's crash of a Max 8 owned by Ethiopian Airlines, where all 157 passengers and crew on board were killed. The crash occurred six minutes after take-off.

BOEING CO-OPERATES

The FAA on its website said it ordered the temporary grounding of the aircraft as a result of the data gathering process into the Ethiopian crash and new evidence at the site and analysed yesterday. The authority said the grounding will remain in effect pending further investigation into the Ethiopia crash, which will include examination of information from the flights data recorders and cockpit voice recorders.

The aircraft’s manufacturer, Boeing, in a statement yesterday said after consultation with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), aviation companies and customers around the world, it had determined – out of an abundance of caution in order to re-assure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety – to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet.

NO FLIGHT: The Airports Authority Arrivals monitor at Piarco Airport shows AA flight 2713 being cancelled.

US President Trump, in a statement yesterday, announced the regulator’s decision, saying: “The safety of the American people, of all people, is our paramount concern.” Previously, the FAA was adamant that the Max 8 was safe to fly and it had seen “no systemic performance issues” that required it to halt flights of the jet.

Trump said all Max aircraft, including the 8 and 9, will be grounded pending the outcome of the investigation into the cause of the Ethiopian Air crash. As it stands, all 371 Max aircraft in operation worldwide are grounded.

2 FLIGHTS CANCELLED

Yesterday, Newsday confirmed that AA flight 2703, scheduled to depart Piarco at 3.25 pm for Miami, was cancelled, just as it was about to take off. Flight 2713, scheduled to leave Miami for Port of Spain was also cancelled.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, line minister for the TTCAA, said the TTCAA has issued a “prohibition notice of the flying of the 737.”

“The aircraft have been grounded by the US aviation – the design state. This means it would have to be grounded worldwide. (Works) is in touch with other agencies to ensure the people who were stranded (yesterday) will be transported (today),” Sinanan said.

He added that the grounding affects AA, not state air carrier Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL). Sinanan said he was told that AA will re-route other (non-Max) aircraft to deal with the delays and cancellations that the groundings have caused.

Acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert, who in his substantive role as Finance Minister and line minister for CAL, assured in a series of tweets on his official twitter page that CAL does not currently “own, lease or operate” the Max 8.

“The FAA has (yesterday) issued an order temporarily grounding all Boeing Max 8 aircraft operated by US airlines. So, until American Airlines can find other planes, the MIA-POS route is suspended, since AA was using the Max 8 for the TT route. But CAL will continue to fly its 737-800s,” Imbert said.

Speaking to Newsday on Monday, CAL CEO Garvin Medera would neither confirm nor deny if the decision to lease was still on, instead saying the company would “be guided in our decision-making by safety, which remains our number one priority.”

The Max 8 in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash had only just been recently commissioned and the pilot was experienced. Reports said minutes before the crash, the pilot said he was experiencing flight control problems, just as he took off from Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport.

2ND FATAL CRASH

His concerns were strikingly similar to those of the pilot in another fatal crash a mere five months before – Lion Air flight 610, which plunged into the Java Sea 12 minutes after take-off from the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia. All 189 passengers and crew died in that flight.

International reports said investigators are looking to see if there are similarities between the Ethiopian Air crash and the Lion Air crash

Initial reports suggested that there were problems with the computerised flight control system, which controls the stability of the aircraft while in flight.

While CAL has still to give an update on the status of its discussion with Boeing, the groundings have resulted in vehement call by the Opposition to suspend any negotiations for the fleet upgrade.

In a statement Tuesday, the UNC’s public relations officer Senator Anita Haynes, said the Government must take immediate action to ensure the safety of all passengers travelling within TT’s airspace.

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