HK bans Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from airspace, joining others

March 13, 2019 18:14
A file photo from Dec. 8, 2015 shows the first 737 MAX parking on the tarmac at the Boeing factory in Renton. The aircraft has come under intense scrutiny from aviation regulators around the world following two deadly accidents in five months. Photo: AFP

Hong Kong authorities have temporarily banned the operation of Boeing B737 MAX aircraft in the local airspace, joining a growing list of jurisdictions that are taking precautionary measures in the wake of a deadly accident in Ethiopia.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) said the prohibition order took effect at 6:00 pm Hong Kong time on Wednesday and will last until further notice.

The spokesman emphasized that the action is "solely a precautionary measure to ensure aviation safety and protect the public," the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

There were two serious accidents involving Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in less than five months, the spokesman pointed out, even as he noted that the United States Federation Aviation Administration has affirmed the airworthiness of B737 MAX aircraft.

Investigations into the accidents involving 737 MAX aircraft -- one involving an Ethiopian Airlines plane last Sunday and another involving an Indonesian carrier last year-- are ongoing, the spokesman noted.

The department has been in close contact with the FAA and the relevant organizations over the past several days, he said.

India's SpiceJet and Russia's Globus Airlines have recently used Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to operate flights into and out of the Hong Kong International Airport.

Hong Kong's aviation authority has now contacted the two airline companies in relation to the temporary prohibition. 

The two carriers said they will cooperate and that they will try to maintain their services with other aircraft types so as to reduce the impact on passengers, according to the government press release.

The CAD will continue to closely monitor the developments and the information of relevant aviation authorities, and review the arrangement of the temporary prohibition in due course.

Calling the ban a prudent act, former Director-Generalof Civil Aviation Peter Lok Kung-nam said it takes time for the FAA to analyze the data in the black box of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft involved in the crash in order to determine the cause of the accident.

Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, who is a commercial pilot, said the CAD's decision is good, though it came somewhat late compared to enforcement actions by other jurisdictions. 

With a growing number of countries halting the Boeing 737 MAX aircrafts, it will put pressure on Boeing and the FAA to speed up their investigations in the accidents, Tam said.

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