HK in no rush after countries close airspace to 737 MAX flights

March 13, 2019 13:15
Major countries have suspended the operations of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, but the US aviation regulator insists that the plane model is safe to fly. Photo: Reuters

While most countries have suspended the operations of Boeing's 737 MAX aircraft following the deadly crash in Ethiopia on Sunday, Hong Kong has yet to follow suit.

The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) said in a statement on Tuesday that there are no Boeing 737 aircraft, including the 737 MAX, registered in Hong Kong and holders of air operator's certificate in the city mainly use locally registered aircraft, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

However, the aviation regulator stopped short of banning 737 MAX from its airspace. 

SpiceJet of India and Globus Airlines of Russia currently operate the 737 MAX 8 aircraft at the Hong Kong International Airport.

The department said it was contacting the two airlines to better understand their aircraft assignments.

But India on Wednesday decided to follow other countries and grounded all 737 MAX aircraft, days after an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed minutes after take-off in Addis Ababa, killing all 157 on-board.

Russian carrier S7 Airlines also suspended 737 MAX flights, but the Russian civil aviation authority has refrained from taking any measures with regard to the aircraft. There was no word from Globus Airlines with regard to their 737 MAX operations.

The CAD said Garuda Indonesia of Indonesia and MIAT Mongolian Airlines of Mongolia have also used the 737 MAX for flights to and from Hong Kong but their civil aviation authorities have suspended the operations of such aircraft.

Despite the moves by other countries, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) insisted that the 737 MAX aircraft remain safe to fly.

It said a review “shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft”, Reuters reported.

The CAD, meanwhile, said it is closely monitoring developments related to the Ethiopian Airlines crash, which was the second in less than half a year involving the same model of plane.

In October last year, a 737 MAX flight by Indonesia's Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea, killing 189 people on board.

As of Wednesday, only the United States and Canada among the major travel destinations have continued to allow 737 MAX aircraft to operate.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Tuesday it is difficult to say how long the suspension of 737 MAX flights will last, but stressed that the safety of all passengers will always be the top priority.

According to Global Times, China operates about a third of the world's 737 MAX fleet, or 96 aircraft among 13 airlines.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Tam Man-ho, a commercial pilot, urged the CAD to ban the 737 MAX from Hong Kong airspace as done by other countries.

Such a move will not only protect the safety of passengers but also press Boeing and the FAA to investigate the Ethiopian Airlines crash as expeditiously as possible, Tam said.

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