Canada grounds Boeing 737 Max planes as precautionary measure
Ethiopia has sent black boxes from a crashed Boeing Co. 737 jet to France for decoding after refusing to hand them to U.S. authorities that had kept the Max model flying after most other regulators grounded it.
The flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders have arrived in Paris where they’ll be processed by the Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses, France’s air-accident investigator, according to a spokesman for the agency. The BEA will download data for the Ethiopian authorities but hasn’t been asked to analyze it, he said.
Ethiopian Airlines, which operated the crashed jet, says the decision to send the black boxes to a European agency was a strategic one after the Federal Aviation Administration was left isolated in arguing that the Max should continue flying. The U.S. regulator finally grounded the model Wednesday amid mounting concern about similarities between the African tragedy and a crash in Indonesia, in which a computer system took control of a flight.
Germany’s Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation earlier declined to work on the black boxes, saying it wasn’t technically possible. France has a direct link to the crash, which killed 157 people, since the Max’s Leap engines are made by the CFM International venture of General Electric Co. and Paris-based Safran SA.
The choice of the BEA over the National Transportation Safety Board for the decoding of the recorders still represents a snub for U.S. regulators used to taking a leading role in probes involving American plane and engine makers.
French President Emmanuel Macron has meanwhile held discussions with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed about a new contract for Toulouse-based Airbus SE as part of a renewal of the Ethiopian Airlines fleet, a French official said Thursday.
Though the African carrier already operates the European planemaker’s A350 wide-body, all of its other jets are Boeings, including 787 Dreamliners for which it was one of the first global customers, and a variety of 737s.
Macron will also discuss a major Airbus order during his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping’s state visit to France later this month, the official said. China has 20 percent of all delivered Max jets and was the first major authority to ground the model after Sunday’s tragedy.
Indonesia will send two officials to Addis Ababa as an observers of the investigation into the crash, and will share data and insights from its own probe into the loss of Lion Air flight 610 in October, according to Soerjanto Tjahjono, chairman of the country’s National Transportation Safety Committee.
The Lion Air Max experienced more than two dozen sharp dips shortly after takeoff, with a preliminary report suggesting the jet was automatically commanded to dive because software thought it was in danger of losing lift following a sensor malfunction.
A rift opened between Lion Air and Boeing when the U.S. company said the disaster could have been avoided if pilots had followed procedure, and the carrier plans to drop the rest of a $22 billion Max order and switch to Airbus after the Ethiopia crash, a person with knowledge of its plans has said.
Still, Boeing has since cooperated positively with Indonesia on the JT610 probe, and the NTSC hasn’t received any reports of further malfunctions concerning the Max, Tjahjono said.
The U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch, which has sent three experts to the Ethiopia crash, as British citizens were among those killed, said that whichever body processes the boxes, the airline and other relevant parties would attend as observers to ensure that proper protocols are followed.
--With assistance from Alan Levin, Harry Suhartono and Nizar Manek.