Boeing cuts 737 MAX output in wake of two deadly crashes

Boeing cuts 737 MAX output in wake of two deadly crashes

CHICAGO/SEATTLE (Reuters) – Boeing Co said on Friday it plans to cut its monthly 737 aircraft production by nearly 20 percent in the wake of two deadly crashes, signaling it does not expect aviation authorities to allow the plane back in the air anytime soon.

FILE PHOTO: The Boeing logo is pictured at the Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition fair (LABACE) at Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photo

Deliveries of Boeing’s best-selling aircraft were frozen after a global grounding of the narrowbody model following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet on March 10, killing all 157 people onboard.

Production will be cut to 42 airplanes per month from 52 starting mid-April, the company said in a statement, without giving an end-date.

U.S. and airline officials said they now believe the plane could be grounded for at least two months, but an even longer grounding is a serious possibility.

The crash in Ethiopia and the crash of a Lion Air plane in Indonesia last October that killed all 189 people on board have left the world’s largest planemaker in crisis.

Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said on Friday said the company now knows that a chain of events caused both disasters, with erroneous activation of so-called MCAS anti-stall software “a common link” between the two.

Boeing said it would not reduce jobs at the new production rate and will work to minimize the financial impact.

The company’s board will establish a committee to review how the company designs and develops airplanes, Muilenburg said. The group will “recommend improvements to our policies and procedures” for its 737 MAX and other airplane programs.

Boeing said it continues to make progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

Shares in Boeing Co fell around two percent after the market closed on Friday. While the number of 737 MAX planes grounded is just over 370, nearly 5,000 more are on order.

Boeing faces logistical issues in finding places to park the growing number of planes as well as being responsible for all their maintenance costs since it has been unable to deliver the jets to customers, two people briefed on the situation said.

Manufacturers avoid halting and then resuming production as this disrupts supply chains and can cause industrial snags. Boeing had been planning to speed up production in June to 57 a month.

Having to hold planes in storage without delivering them does, however, consume extra cash through increased inventory.

Boeing supplier Spirit Aerosystems Holdings said it will continue to make 52 737 MAX shipsets – the complete set of parts for each aircraft – per month, storing extras at its facilities. Its shares fell 3.5 percent.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairman Robert Sumwalt told reporters that U.S. investigators were given the raw data from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 as soon as it was read in France last month. He added that the Ethiopian Airlines 302 preliminary report “was very thorough and well done.”

Former NTSB chairman Christopher Hart was named by the Federal Aviation Administration this week to head an international team to review the safety of the 737 MAX.

He told reporters on Friday he thought the review, which will start on Monday, could take about three months. It is still not clear what countries will take part.

He said investigators are going to be focused far more on the interaction between software and pilots than mechanical issues in future.

“This is territory we are going to see more of,” Hart said.

Reporting by Tracy Rucinski in CHICAGO, Eric M. Johnson in SEATTLE, Tim Hepher in PARIS and David Shepardson in WASHINGTON; Editing by Chris Sanders, Grant McCool and Sonya Hepinstall

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Anti-stall system active before Ethiopian 737 MAX crash: sources

Anti-stall system active before Ethiopian 737 MAX crash: sources

WASHINGTON/PARIS (Reuters) – An anti-stall system at the center of a probe into the crash of a Boeing 737 MAX jetliner in Indonesia five months ago was also at play when an identical aircraft crashed in Ethiopia earlier this month, three people briefed on the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian Federal policemen stand at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

Data pulled from the Ethiopian Airlines flight recorder suggests the so-called MCAS system, which pushes the nose of the jet downwards, had been activated before the jet ploughed into a field outside Addis Ababa on March 10, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of an interim official report.

Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment on the data, first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

It is the second related piece of evidence to emerge from the black boxes of Ethiopian flight 302 after an initial sample of data recovered by investigators in Paris 11 days ago suggested similar “angle of attack” readings to the first crash.

These initial airflow readings from the Ethiopian jet, first reported by Reuters, refer to stall-related information needed to trigger the automated nose-down MCAS system.

The system is designed to be activated only when the angle of attack – measuring the way the wing cuts through the air – has become too high to avoid the plane stalling or losing lift.

However, it was not immediately clear whether the system on the Ethiopian jet was responding to faulty sensor data, as in the case of the earlier crash, or genuine stall indications.

Ethiopian, French and U.S. officials have said there are similarities between the two accidents, which led to the worldwide grounding of the recently introduced 737 MAX.

An Ethiopian-led investigation is trying to establish whether the system overpowered the pilots, a leading scenario in the Lion Air crash, and what action was taken by the crew.

Boeing has suggested using two existing cut-out switches could have prevented the Lion Air disaster, but it has also announced proposals to beef up the system and improve training.

Two of the people briefed on the matter said they presumed that the Ethiopian Airlines pilots did not hit the cut-out switches based on the airplane’s speed and fatal descent, but could not confirm that the data established that.

Reporting by David Shepardson, Tim Hepher, Editing by Sarah White

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SpiceJet seeks planes from other sources after India grounds 737 MAX fleet

SpiceJet seeks planes from other sources after India grounds 737 MAX fleet

A man looks out through a window with an advertisement of SpiceJet Airline, on a commercial building in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Amit Dave

(Reuters) – India’s SpiceJet Ltd said on Friday it was in talks will lessors globally to induct aircraft, in an effort to fill a gap after the grounding of its MAX fleet.

The airline was forced to ground its 12 Boeing Co 737 MAX 8 planes by India’s aviation watchdog due to safety concerns after an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash that killed 157 people earlier this month.

The low-cost carrier could also benefit from cash-strapped Jet Airways being forced to ground planes, and is in talks with lessors to lease some of those aircraft, a person with direct knowledge of the matter had told Reuters earlier this week.

Reporting by Tanvi Mehta in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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