Muscat: Oman’s Public Authority for Civil Aviation has decided to suspend all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operating into and out of the country’s airports until further notice.
“PACA is temporarily suspending operations of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into and out of all Omani airports until further notice, “ the agency announced last night.
The news comes in the wake of an Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday morning, which claimed the lives of all 157 people on board. The aircraft was a Boeing 737 MAX8.
Mohammad bin Nasser Al Zaabi, Executive President of the Public Authority for Civil Aviation, told the Times of Oman, “Safety of people’s lives is our top priority for us. The Omani airspace is available for all types of aircraft according to the followed regulations. In case of emergency landing and emergency situations, (for Boeing 737 Max fleet) coordination of landing is determined by specifying each case for the 737 planes MAX.”
Oman Air, the country’s flag carrier, announced a halt to its operations of Boeing 737 Max airplanes shortly after the aviation authority statement. A statement from Oman Air said: “based on the Public Authority for Civil Aviation instructions, all Oman Air flights operated by Boeing 737 MAX will be suspended as soon as possible. We are in the process of making the necessary re-scheduling and will advise our guests of any flight cancellations.
“For further information and updates, please check Oman Air website, www.omanair.com (flight status) or contact our call centre.”
Oman Air had previously said, “Oman Air is monitoring the updates in regards to the B737 MAX 8 aircraft and is in close contact with Boeing to understand if there are any implications for other airlines operating the same model. Oman Air’s primary and overriding consideration is the safety and well-being of its staff and guests.”
Oman Air currently operates five Boeing 737 Max aircraft. The first one was delivered on 30 January, 2018. Subsequent aircraft were delivered on 11 March, 13 June, 25 September and 7 October last year. Oman Air had earlier announced that they had put in an order for 30 MAX aircraft.
The airline uses the 737 MAX for long-haul flights to South East Asia and Europe.
Travel agents based in Muscat said they are monitoring developments. “Passengers should check flight status before heading to the airport,” one said.
When contacted, a flydubai spokesperson, told Times of Oman: “flydubai has received the notice from the Oman authorities and we will operate our flights to Oman according to these directives.”
The aircraft manufacturers, Boeing, have said that they are working with safety agencies to find out what caused these accidents.
“Safety is Boeing’s number one priority and we have full confidence in the safety of the MAX,” said a Boeing statement. “We understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets. We’ll continue to engage with them to ensure they have the information needed to have confidence in operating their fleets. It is also important to note that the Federal Aviation Administration is not mandating any further action at this time, and based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”
The airplane manufacturers also admitted that they were looking into enhancing the plane’s software, following another fatal Lion Air crash on 29 October, 2018, involving the same aircraft.
“For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer,” said Boeing. “This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training. The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.
“Boeing has been working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on development, planning and certification of the software enhancement, and it will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks. The update also incorporates feedback received from our customers,” added the organisation.
“The FAA says it anticipates mandating this software enhancement with an Airworthiness Directive (AD) no later than April. We have worked with the FAA in development of this software enhancement.”
Oman aside, other nations’ aviation authorities, including Australia, the UK, Indonesia, China, Malaysia and Singapore, also grounded the jets. Shane Carmody, the CEO and Director of Aviation Safety at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) of Australia said, “This is a temporary suspension while we wait for more information to review the safety risks of continued operations of the Boeing 737 MAX to and from Australia. CASA regrets any inconvenience to passengers but believes it is important to always put safety first.”
A spokesman from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority added, “The UK Civil Aviation Authority has been closely monitoring the situation, however, as we do not currently have sufficient information from the flight data recorder we have, as a precautionary measure, issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace. The UK Civil Aviation Authority’s safety directive will be in place until further notice.”
Indonesia, whose airline Lion Air suffered the first fatal Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash on 29 October 2018, also said they were looking to see if their airlines were in flight-worthy condition.
“This check ensures that the air speed, altitude and angle of systems are operating properly, if there are findings we will immediately follow up,” said Polana Promesti of the country’s Directorate General of Air Transportation.
According to Boeing, there are some 68 airlines around the world that use the Boeing 737 MAX.
A number of flag carrier airlines use the 737 MAX, including Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air China, Air Niugini, American Airlines, Azerbaijan, Ethiopian Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Icelandair, Korean Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Mauritania Airlines, Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and United Airlines.