For the second time in less than six months, a Boeing 737 MAX crashed eight minutes after launch and killed everyone on board. This raised new questions about the security of a model that is critical to the future plans of the US giant.
China – a key market for Boeing – was the first country to crush the 737 MAX 8 on Monday, signaling that other nations could follow suit.
On Sunday, the 157 passengers and crew members of a 737 MAX powered by Ethiopian Airlines were killed. Last October, the same Lion Air-powered aircraft model crashed in Indonesia, killing 189.
Only the flight data and cockpit conversation contained in the two black boxes of the aircraft can provide concrete evidence of what might have caused the latest accident – technical issues, a pilot's mistake, or a combination of factors.
"The pilot mentioned that he had trouble and he wants to return, he was given permission to" turn around, "said Tewolde GebreMariam, Chief Executive of Ethiopian Airlines, to reporters in Addis Ababa.
The weather in the Ethiopian capital was good at the time of the flight.
While Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia said it was "too early to make any meaningful comment," another industry expert highlighted the similarities between the two incidents.
"It's the same plane, like Lion Air [Ethiopian Airlines] Shortly after the start an accident occurred and the pilots signaled problems, then the plane crashed. The similarities are clear, "the expert added, calling for anonymity to speak freely about the matter.
The Chinese aviation authorities also noted the "similarities" between the two fatal incidents and said operations would resume only after "the relevant measures to ensure effective aviation safety" were confirmed.
Boeing has delivered 76 of the aircraft to Chinese airlines and another 104 are on order at the company's website.
However, Michel Merluzeau, director of Aerospace & Defense Market Analysis, noted that "these are the only commonality and the comparison stops here because we do not have any other reliable information at this point".
In both cases, carriers have a good reputation.
Since the Lion Air accident, the 737 MAX has been facing growing skepticism in the aviation industry. The program had already encountered problems during development.
In May 2017, Boeing had discontinued 737 MAX test flights due to quality issues with the engine produced by CFM International, a company owned by the French Safran Aircraft Engines and GE Aviation.
"Very important program"
At the end of January, 350 of the twin-engine, narrow-body aircraft were delivered to customers by 5 011 Boeing orders.
The latest accident is a big blow to Boeing, whose MAX Carrier is the latest version of the Boeing 737, its bestseller of all time, with more than 10 000 aircraft produced.
"MAX is a very important Boeing program for the next decade, accounting for 64% of the company's production by 2032 and significant operating margins," said Merluzeau.
"It is an essential tool for worldwide transportation and trade."
He said the next 24 hours are "key" for Boeing to deal with the crisis with both travelers and investors worried about the reliability of their aircraft.
Boeing said it was "deeply distressed" by the Ethiopian Airlines incident, adding that a technical team would support investigators.
The expert, who asked for anonymity, said Boeing is likely to face some backlash in the markets, but the damage is likely to be limited for the group, whose only major competitor is Airbus.
The future of the aircraft is so important to Boeing that technical corrections are made.
After the October 29 incident in Indonesia, the aerospace community raised questions about the lack of information about the aircraft's anti-stall system.
After investigators said that the plane that was doomed had problems with the airspeed indicator and the angles of attack (AoA), Boeing issued a special bulletin telling operators what to do when they did are in the same situation.
An AoA sensor provides data about the angle at which air flows over the wings, and tells the pilot how much lift an aircraft is getting. The information can be crucial to prevent an airplane from stalling.
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