Sens. Blumenthal, Feinstein call for grounding of Boeing 737 Max 8 after Ethiopia crash

Two Democratic Senators are calling for all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft to be grounded after a crash in Ethiopia’s capital killed all 157 on board. Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Dianne Feinstein of California called on the Federal Aviation Administration to ground the jets in the U.S. until an investigation into the cause of the crash is complete. 

“Until the cause of the crash is known and it’s clear that similar risks aren’t present in the domestic fleet, I believe all Boeing 737 Max 8 series aircraft operating in the United States should be temporarily grounded,”Senator Feinstein wrote in a letter to the FAA. 

“The FAA must guarantee that all critical software updates have been delivered and pilots are well trained in their operation,” Blumenthal echoed in a statement.  

American Airlines operates 24 Max 8 jets, and Southwest Airlines operates the largest U.S. fleet of these planes, with 34. Both airlines expressed confidence in the safety of the aircraft and their crews.

The FAA ordered Boeing to enhance safety-related software on all its 737 Max 8 planes by next month.

The Ethiopian flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa Sunday morning. More than 30 nationalities are among the dead, including at least eight Americans. The plane was new and had been delivered to the airline in November. 

Other countries have already grounded the Max 8 planes, including Australia, Brazil, the Cayman Islands, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom. 

The Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash was the second crash in recent months involving the new Max 8 plane. Just five months earlier, in October, a crash involving the same Boeing 737 model took place near Jakarta, Indonesia when a Lion Air flight plunged into the Java Sea minutes after taking off, killing all 189 people on board. 

“These two catastrophic accidents – both claiming the lives of all on board – call into serious question the safety of these airplanes. The FAA and the airline industry must act quickly and decisively to protect American travelers, pilots, and flight attendants. These planes must be grounded immediately, and airlines should work expeditiously to minimize disruption and accommodate customers whose travel is impacted,” urged Blumenthal. 

Boeing said in a statement on Monday that while safety is a “core value for everyone at Boeing and the safety of our airplanes, our customers’ passengers and their crews is always our top priority,” and it would therefore not be mandating any further action beyond a “software enhancement” on the Max jets. Boeing went on to say that the “737 MAX is a safe airplane that was designed, built and supported by our skilled employees who approach their work with the utmost integrity.”

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