Singapore suspends all variants of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Singapore suspends all variants of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft

This article is more than 12 months old

Ban by Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore affects Silkair, which has 6 jets

Singapore has temporarily suspended the operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft - the first country to do so - following two fatal accidents involving the aircraft in less than five months.

The ban, with effect from 2pm yesterday, affects Singapore Airlines' regional arm, SilkAir, which has six of the jets, and four other airlines that operate the B-737 Max to Singapore - China Southern Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Shandong Airlines and Thai Lion Air.

The announcement by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), first reported by The Straits Times, comes after a B-737 Max 8 crashed in Ethiopia on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board.

CAAS is working with Changi Airport Group and the affected airlines to minimise any impact of the suspension on travellers.

Australia also imposed a similar ban on the operation of all variants of the B-737 Max aircraft.

SilkAir operated its last B-737 Max 8 flight from Kathmandu, Nepal, which landed at Changi Airport around 5.30am yesterday.

It is among more than 20 airlines that have grounded their B-737 Max 8s since the Sunday crash. The Ethiopian Airlines crash came on the heels of last October's Lion Air crash that killed all 189 people on the same aircraft type.

CAAS said it is suspending the aircraft flying into and out of Singapore to allow authorities to review the safety risks associated with them.

The regulator is in touch with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as well as Boeing and will review the suspension as relevant safety information becomes available.

The FAA maintains that the aircraft is airworthy but said it will mandate US carriers to install a software enhancement to the aircraft by next month.

Boeing said it has been working closely with the FAA on the development, planning and certification of the software enhancement, and it will be deployed across the 737 Max fleet "in the coming weeks".

While about a quarter of the close to 400 B-737 Max 8 jets now operating have been hit by suspensions, many carriers are continuing to fly the plane.

This includes two of its biggest operators; US carrier Southwest Airlines and Europe's Ryanair.

Associate Professor Lawrence Loh, director of the Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations at the National University of Singapore Business School, said: "While it is fair to let the investigations take its course, we should be more conservative in terms of passenger safety which is paramount.

"Even if there is no regulatory action, passengers ultimately vote with their feet and will walk away from all Boeing 737 Max flights if they do not have the confidence in the plane's safety."