Washington: Boeing has announced that it will temporarily halt deliveries of its 737 Max fleet after the aircraft was grounded for an indefinite period globally in the wake of the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane of the same model that killed all 157 people on board.
The announcement was made on Thursday night as Boeing determines what caused the Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 to crash on Sunday just six minutes after it took-off from Addis Ababa and also a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 – the same type of plane – that plunged into the Java Sea in October minutes into the flight from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.
Boeing however, said that it would still continue building the planes which came as good news for thousands of the company’s employees – machinists, technical employees and supervisors – who work on the assembly line in Renton, Washington, CNN reported.
But Boeing did not give the number of workers who specifically work on the Max program.
The company currently has 70,000 employees in the state, though not all are involved in manufacturing and many of those work on planes other than the 737 Max.
When the 787 Dreamliner was grounded for three months in 2013 because batteries were catching fire, Boeing kept building that model as well.
The fix for the Dreamliner problem was a more extensive change to that plane than a software update of a safety system. It included the installation of a containment and venting system around the batteries.
Both crashes remain under investigation, but a preliminary investigation of the Lion Air crash showed pilots fighting with an automatic safety system for control of the jet.
The system seems to have forced the nose of the jet down in a mistaken belief the plane was at risk of stalling.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported on Wednesday that there were similarities in the track of the two fatal flights.
Boeing and the FAA are also working to finalise a software update designed to make the planes safer, which is expected to be done by next month.
But in the meantime, the 737 Max jets that had been in service will remain grounded indefinitely – all 371 of them.