Today’s Stock Market News — The backlash against Boeing Co.’s 737 MAX jet escalated Tuesday, with groundings of the new jetliner spreading to Australia, Singapore and Latin America, amplifying the problem the company faces to contain the fallout from Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash.
The moves came despite the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority vouching for the safety of the plane as American authorities, Boeing and Ethiopian investigators probe the crash. The flurry of groundings by foreign regulators, which typically follow FAA safety determinations for American-built jets, has idled about 40% of the 737 MAX fleet around the world. Most of those are MAX 8s, the version involved in the Ethiopia crash.
Boeing has delivered more than 370 MAX planes to 47 customers, including leasing firms that place the jets with airlines around the world. American carriers, sticking by the FAA guidance, have said they have no plans to ground the flights. The Ethiopian crash happened less than five months after another Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed in Indonesia, heightening safety concerns about the plane.
Australia on Tuesday said that “in light of the two recent fatal accidents, the temporary suspension of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operations was in the best interests of safety.” No Australian airline operates the plane, but two global carriers operate their MAX planes in Australia, the country’s civil aviation regulator said.
The FAA said Monday it has no plans to ground the jet, despite concerns elsewhere. “This investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions,” the FAA said in an update to airlines.
The Indonesian and Ethiopian crashes involved the same plane model and occurred soon after takeoff, with pilots seemingly encountering technical problems. But accident investigators haven’t determined the causes of either crash or any link between the incidents.
Ethiopian Airlines, which grounded its planes Monday along with China and Indonesia, said they could remain parked until more details emerged from the probe into Sunday’s crash that killed all 157 people aboard. It can take weeks or longer for initial findings to emerge in a crash probe, though investigators Monday recovered the plane’s so called black boxes, which store vital flight information. That could help investigators more quickly determine why the plane flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed minutes after taking off.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said Tuesday it was “temporarily suspending operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into and out of Singapore in light of two fatal accidents involving Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in less than five months.” The suspension started 2 p.m. Tuesday local time.
Meanwhile, Mexican carrier Aeromexico said late Monday it was grounding its six 737 MAX jets “until more thorough information on the investigation” into the Ethiopian crash can be provided. Brazil’s GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes SA and Argentine carrier Aerolineas Argentinas took similar action, between them affecting a further 12 planes.
Boeing said Monday it was in talks with regulators and airlines about concerns they may have. “We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX,” Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said in a message to employees.
The intervention of the Singaporean regulator will hit Singapore Airlines Ltd.’s regional arm SilkAir, which operates six 737 MAX aircraft, as well as other airlines that fly the aircraft to Singapore. They include China Southern Airlines , Garuda Indonesia , Shandong Airlines and Thai Lion Air, the regulator said.
In Demand. Airlines have flocked to buy Boeing’s 737 MAX airliners, making it the plane maker’s most popular model. One of the planes was involved in this weekend’s Ethiopian Airlines crash. SilkAir said in a statement that the grounding of its 737 MAX jets would cause some disruption to flight schedules, but that its 17 older 737 jets were operating unaffected.
The regulator said it has been in frequent contact with SilkAir about its MAX operations since last year and is satisfied the airline has complied with all safety requirements. It also said it is in touch with other regulators, including the FAA, and Boeing. Ethiopian Airlines said Monday that investigators found both of the plane’s so-called black boxes, which could help understand what befell the jet.