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Garuda Indonesia CEO says ‘possibility’ airline will cancel Boeing 737 MAX orders

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Members of the Ethiopian red cross search for remains at the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash before a commemoration ceremony at the scene of the crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Garuda Indonesia’s chief executive said there is a “possibility” the airline will cancel its orders of Boeing Co’s 737 MAXs, with the final decision depending on what the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does.

The 737 MAX has been banned from flying in most countries after an Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday that killed all 157 people on board. This was a second deadly incident involving the relatively new Boeing model in five months. In October, a Lion Air jet crashed in Indonesia killing all 189 people on board.

“Garuda is reconsidering its upcoming order of 20 Boeing 737 MAXs after the two Boeing crashes,” CEO Ari Askhara told reporters on Thursday, adding its only Boeing 737 MAX would stay grounded until “there’s notification from the FAA”.

The FAA grounded the 737 MAX on Wednesday over safety fears, and acting FAA administrator, Daniel Elwell, has said he does not know how long the U.S. grounding would last.

Askhara said his airline had decided to reduce the order from 49 “before the crashes”.

He told Reuters in February that the carrier wanted to swap some of its order for MAX 8s for widebody Boeing models.

Indonesia’s Lion Air Managing Director Daniel Putut told Reuters on Wednesday the airline has postponed all planned 737 MAX deliveries until at least the release of a final report into its crash last year.

The report is due later this year, and follows a draft report that pointed to issues with Boeing’s anti-stall system, as well as the airline’s training and maintenance.

Lion Air has not yet decided whether to cancel the order for 737 MAX, Putut said.

Reporting by Wilda Asmarini; Writing by Fanny Potkin; Editing by Himani Sarkar

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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U.S. Transportation Dept probes FAA approval of 737 MAX: WSJ

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ADDIS ABABA/PARIS (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Transportation is investigating the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) approval of Boeing Co’s 737 MAX jets, the Wall Street Journal said on Sunday, citing people familiar with the inquiry.

A woman mourns next to coffins during the burial ceremony of the Ethiopian Airline Flight ET 302 crash victims at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Orthodox church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 17, 2019. REUTERS/Maheder Haileselassie

The investigation by the department’s inspector general was launched after a Lion Air crash in October killed 189 people, the newspaper said on.wsj.com/2Hrzvlq, months before the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane killed 157.

Both planes were MAX 8s, and both crashed minutes post take-off after pilots reported flight control problems.

The inquiry focuses on whether the FAA used appropriate design standards and engineering analyses in certifying the aircraft’s anti-stall system known as MCAS, the WSJ said.

Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment.

Two government officials briefed on the matter told Reuters it would not be surprising for the Transportation Department to investigate a major safety issue but could not immediately confirm the report.

Earlier in the day, Ethiopia said the Ethiopian Airlines crash had “clear similarities” with the Lion Air crash, according to initial analysis of the black boxes recovered from the wreckage.

Concern over the plane’s safety has caused aviation authorities worldwide to ground the model, wiping billions of dollars off Boeing’s market value.

“It was the same case with the Indonesian (Lion Air) one. There were clear similarities between the two crashes so far,” Ethiopian transport ministry spokesman Muse Yiheyis said.

“The data was successfully recovered. Both the American team and our (Ethiopian) team validated it,” he told Reuters, adding that the ministry would provide more information after three or four days.

In Washington, however, U.S. officials told Reuters the FAA and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board had not yet validated the data.

When investigators, after reviewing black box data, return to Addis Ababa and start conducting interpretive work, the NTSB and FAA will assist in verification and validation of the data, an official said.

A second source said little information had been circulated between parties about the contents of data and voice recordings.

It was not clear how many of the roughly 1,800 parameters of flight data and two hours of cockpit recordings, spanning the doomed six-minute flight and earlier trips, had been taken into account in the preliminary Ethiopian analysis.

International rules require a preliminary report on the crash to be released within 30 days.

SAFETY ANALYSIS

The crash has generated one of the most widely watched and high-stakes inquiries for years, with the latest version of Boeing’s profitable 737 workhorse depending on the outcome.

Previous accident reports show that in such high-profile cases there can be disagreements among parties about the cause.

In Paris, France’s BEA air accident investigation agency said data from the jet’s cockpit voice recorder had been successfully downloaded. The French agency said on Twitter it had not listened to the audio files and the data had been transferred to Ethiopian investigators.

In Addis Ababa, a source who has listened to the air traffic control recording of the plane’s communications said flight 302 had an unusually high speed after take-off before it reported problems and asked permission to climb quickly.

The Seattle Times reported that Boeing’s safety analysis of a new flight control system on 737 MAX jets had several crucial flaws.

The analysis of MCAS understated the power of this system, the Seattle Times said, citing current and former engineers at the FAA.

The FAA also did not delve into any detailed inquiries and followed a standard certification process on the MAX, the Seattle Times said, citing an FAA spokesman.

The FAA declined to comment on the report but referred to previous statements about the certification process. It has said the 737-MAX certification process followed the FAA’s standard process.

The report also said both Boeing and the FAA were informed of its specifics and their responses sought 11 days ago, before the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

Last Monday Boeing said it would deploy a software upgrade to the 737 MAX 8, a few hours after the FAA said it would mandate “design changes” in the aircraft by April.

Slideshow (5 Images)

Boeing was finalizing the software change and a training revision and would evaluate new information as it became available, Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement on Sunday after the Ethiopian transport ministry’s comments.

A Boeing spokesman said the 737 MAX was certified in line with identical FAA requirements and processes that governed certification of all previous new airplanes and derivatives. The spokesman said the FAA concluded that MCAS on 737 MAX met all certification and regulatory requirements.

Additional reporting by David Shepardson, Gaurika Juneja, Tim Hepher, Tracy Rucinski, Editing by William Maclean

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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