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Europeans join wave of Boeing suspensions, Trump frets

UK, Germany and France join list suspending Boeing 737 MAX

By Reuters - Mar 12,2019 - Last updated at Mar 12,2019

American civil aviation and Boeing investigators search through the debris at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Tuesday (Reuters photo)

ADDIS ABABA/PARIS — Major European nations Britain, Germany and France joined a wave of suspensions of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on Tuesday as US President Donald Trump fretted over modern airplane design following a crash in Ethiopia that killed 157 people.

Suspension by respected European regulators was the worst setback yet for US planemaker Boeing in the wake of Sunday’s crash and put pressure on the United States to follow suit.

In response, the world’s biggest planemaker, which has seen billions of dollars wiped off its market value, said it understood the decisions but retained “full confidence” in the 737 MAX and had safety as its priority.

The cause of Sunday’s crash, which followed another disaster with a 737 Max five months ago in Indonesia that killed 189 people, remains unknown.

October’s Lion Air crash is also unresolved, but attention has focused so far on the role of a software system designed to push the plane down as well as airline training and maintenance.

Boeing says it plans to update the software in coming weeks.

There is no evidence yet whether the two crashes are linked.

“Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT,” Trump tweeted, lamenting that product developers always sought to go an unnecessary step further when “old and simpler” was superior. 

“I do not know about you, but I do not want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!” he added, without referring directly to Boeing or recent accidents.

Elsewhere in Europe, Ireland, Austria and Norwegian Air said they too would temporarily ground MAX 8 passenger jets as a precaution. Earlier, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and Oman had also temporarily suspended the aircraft, following China, Indonesia and others the day before. 

The European Aviation Safety Agency, which has a major role in overseeing the design of aircraft and monitors some airline operations, was expected to make a statement later on Tuesday.

Experts say it is too early to speculate on the reason for the crash. Most are caused by a unique chain of human and technical factors.

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