Singapore Airlines confirmed on Tuesday morning (March 12) that its regional arm SilkAir is temporarily withdrawing its Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet from service.
This comes after an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed on Sunday, killing all 157 on board, making it the second fatal crash for the Boeing 737 Max 8 passenger jet in half a year.
In a Facebook post at 10.55am, SIA said that the safety of its customers and crew is its highest priority, and as of Tuesday morning, all six of SilkAir’s 737 Max 8 aircraft have been grounded in Singapore and will not be returned to service until further notice.
The airline’s 17 Boeing 737-800s are not affected, according to the statement.
SIA said: “The withdrawal from service of the 737 Max 8 fleet will have an impact on some of the airline’s flight schedules. Customers who may be affected by flight disruptions will be contacted for re-accommodation.”
Boeing 737 Max 8 planes have been used on SilkAir flights to Bengaluru, Cairns, Chongqing, Darwin, Hiroshima, Hyderabad, Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Phnom Penh, Phuket and Wuhan.
SIA confirmed that there will be flight cancellations. The Straits Times was made to understand that details are still being sorted out.
It is also temporarily suspending the operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft into and out of Singapore.The other airlines are China Southern Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Shandong Airlines and Thai Lion Air.
Singapore is the first country to impose a blanket ban not just on the B-737 Max 8 but all variants of the jet. It is also the first to do so for all flights operated by both local and foreign carriers.
On Monday, China and Indonesia instructed their airlines to ground all B-737 Max 8 aircraft.
The company said that it was deeply saddened by the loss of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, and “our hearts go out to those affected by the accident”.
SilkAir is in close communication with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group to manage the effects of flight disruptions, said SIA, adding that it would provide updates on affected flights when finalised.
Customers affected by the Boeing 737 Max 8 flight disruptions and who require assistance can e-mail or call SIA.
They are also advised to update their contact details or subscribe to a mobile notification service to receive updates on their flight status.
The suspension will take effect from 2pm on Tuesday.
CAAS said “During the temporary suspension, CAAS will gather more information and review the safety risk associated with the continued operation of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft into and out of Singapore.”
CAAS said it is closely monitoring the situation and is in close communication with the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other aviation regulators, as well as Boeing.
It has been in regular contact with SilkAir on its Max operations since last year, it said, and has been satisfied that the airline has been taking appropriate measures to comply with the necessary safety requirements.
The suspension will be reviewed as relevant safety information becomes available, it added.
The 737 is the world’s best-selling modern passenger aircraft and one of the industry’s most reliable.
Since the Ethiopian Airlines crash, more than 20 airlines, including all China carriers that operate the plane, as well as Ethiopian Airlines and Cayman Airways – the main carrier of the Cayman Islands – have stopped flying their B-737 Max 8 jets. South Korea and India have begun a special inspection of the aircraft.
Ethiopian Airlines grounded its fleet the day Flight ET302, which was bound for Nairobi in Kenya, went down soon after it left Addis Ababa airport in Ethiopia at 8.38am local time.
Investigators have started to piece together the final moments of the doomed flight, after the plane’s flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder – commonly referred to as the black box – were recovered on Monday.
Analysis of the recorders, which contain critical information, will hopefully reveal why the B-737 Max 8 plane crashed and, perhaps more importantly, whether similar factors led to the Lion Air crash.
While a final report is not out yet, the Lion Air crash is believed to have been caused by erroneous cockpit readings that suggested the nose of the plane was tilted higher than it was.
Of the 378 B-737 Max 8 aircraft flying around the world today, about 100 belong to Chinese carriers and 20 to airlines based in Southeast Asia.
US carrier Southwest Airlines has the largest fleet of B-737 Max 8 planes with 31 planes, followed by Europe’s Ryanair.
Analysts said that Sunday’s crash is another blow to Boeing, which is already facing lawsuits after the Lion Air crash.
“Boeing has lost control of the timetable to provide the safe, reliable solution,” aviation consultant Neil Hansford told Bloomberg.
The single-aisle B-737 family has been a huge success for Boeing, with the B-737 Max the latest version that started flying just two years ago. Last year, more than seven in 10 of Boeing’s deliveries were 737 planes.
Following Sunday’s crash, Boeing has postponed the debut of its new 777X jet, which was scheduled for this week.
– The Straits Times