AP NEWS

Right decision to ground 737 Max

March 22, 2019

Now that Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft has been grounded worldwide, we can focus on why a plane celebrated as an industry leader has been involved in two fatal crashes.

Earlier this month, Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302 crashed just after takeoff, killing 157 people on board the 737 Max 8 plane. In October, 189 people died when a 737 Max 8 operated by Lion Air, an Indonesian carrier, crashed just after takeoff.

After studying satellite data for both crashes, Federal Aviation Administration officials found enough similarities to ground all Max aircraft. Across the globe, 42 other countries had already grounded the plane, so the United States was woefully and potentially dangerously late in taking action.

To be clear: Investigators do not have enough information about what went wrong or why these planes have crashed. But we do know a number of questions have been raised about a computerized flight-control system and the potential lack of disclosure and training for pilots. We also know after the Lion Air crash, pilots unions complained about a lack of disclosure and training for the software update — and that Boeing had promised a software fix last year.

Following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, Boeing said it would soon be updating flight-control software, providing more training and enhancing external sensors. But several pilots have said they asked Boeing to implement these changes months ago.

While these crashes are horrifying and grounding the Max was necessary, so is proper perspective. It’s hard to imagine a safer form of travel than a commercial airliner. But until investigators understand what went wrong in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, whether there are meaningful similarities to the Lion Air crash, and then apply the correct training and technological fixes, the planes have to be grounded. Passengers, pilots and flight attendants must have confidence they are safe when they fly.