U.S. Lawmaker Vows Probe Into Plane's Approval: 737 Max Update

Alan Levin
U.S. Lawmaker Vows Probe Into Plane's Approval: 737 Max Update

(Bloomberg) -- Investigators continued to search for what caused the crash of a Boeing Co. 737 Max on March 10 in Ethiopia, killing 157 people. A device found in the wreckage provided an early clue and work decoding the black boxes from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 began in France.

Meanwhile, airlines across the globe struggled to adjust their schedules and assess the financial impact, now that the aircraft has been grounded. U.S. regulators aren’t expected to let flights resume until Boeing completes a software update, which could take at least six weeks to finalize.

Key Developments:

A U.S. lawmaker vowed to investigate the Max’s certificationBoeing rose after AFP reported on software upgrade timingWork began in France on the black boxesAir Canada suspended its financial forecasts

Here are the latest developments (times are for New York):

U.S. Congressional Probe (3:17 p.m.)

Representative Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he would investigate to make sure that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration “is carrying out its critical safety mission” in the wake of the agency’s decision to ground the Max. “I continue to have serious concerns about key decisions made in the FAA’s certification of the 737 Max, and what was, and was not, disclosed to pilots,” DeFazio said in a statement.

Black Box Work Begins (1:19 p.m.)

France’s aviation-safety agency, the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses, began technical work on the flight data recorder with an Ethiopian investigative team. Boeing, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and FAA also are helping analyze the so-called black boxes.

Shares Jump on Software Report (11:12 a.m.)

Boeing shares reversed earlier losses after Agence France-Presse reported, citing unnamed sources, that the planemaker plans to roll out a software upgrade for 737 Max stall prevention in about 10 days. Boeing reaffirmed in an email that the upgrade will be rolled out in the coming weeks, confirming a Reuters report. The shares rose 1.2 percent to $377.87 at 11:48 a.m. in New York.

Air Canada Suspends Forecast (7:00 a.m.)

Air Canada suspended its outlook for the first quarter and full year, citing the grounding and Boeing’s suspension of deliveries. The airline’s shares fell 2.3 percent to C$31.16 at 9:37 a.m. in Toronto. The Montreal-based carrier said it is continuing to develop a contingency plan and will provide updates.Earlier:

Wreckage Piece Offers Clue

A jackscrew found in the wreckage of ET302 indicated that the jet was configured to dive, based on a preliminary review, according to a person familiar with the investigation. The evidence helped persuade U.S. regulators to ground the model, the person said. The device is used to set the trim that raises and lowers a plane’s nose.

Trouble Began Shortly After Takeoff

The captain of the doomed jetliner faced an emergency almost immediately after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, requesting permission to return after three minutes as the aircraft accelerated to abnormal speed, the New York Times reported, citing a person who reviewed air traffic communications.

Boeing Pauses Deliveries

Boeing halted deliveries of the jetliner because of restrictions imposed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. “We continue to build the 737 Max while we’re assessing how the situation -- including any potential capacity constraints -- will impact our production,” company spokesman Chaz Bickers said.

U.S. Grounding to Last Into April

The jets could remain grounded in the U.S. at least through April, lawmakers said after being briefed by aviation regulators. Flights won’t resume until the planes receive updated flight-control software that Boeing and the FAA are racing to finalize, according to two congressmen. That process could take six weeks or more depending on additional training needed for pilots.

Flight Data Recorder

The first photo of the Ethiopian Airlines flight data recorder showed external damage from the impact of the crash. Technical work on the so-called black boxes will begin March 15, France’s BEA said on Twitter.

Fares Surge

Average airfares in India soared 65 percent on major routes after the grounding of the 737 Max, shrinking capacity in the world’s fastest-growing aviation market. Carriers have previously been luring first-time flyers with ultra-cheap fares.

Garuda Trims Orders

Garuda Indonesia plans to further reduce its orders for 737 Max jets after the crash. The Indonesian flag carrier initially planned to slash its Max orders to 20 planes from 49 outstanding before the October disaster involving Lion Air flight 610. Now the airline plans to cut even more, President Director I Gusti Ngurah Askhara Danadiputra, told reporters in Jakarta.

Airbus China Talks

Xi Jinping will discuss a major order of Airbus SE planes with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, when the Chinese president visits Paris this month, a French official said Thursday. There are “positive signals” regarding the contract, the official said. Macron and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed are also discussing a new contract as part of a fleet renewal at Ethiopian Airlines, the official said.

--With assistance from Helene Fouquet, Anurag Kotoky, Harry Suhartono, Ryan Beene, Erik Wasson, Mary Schlangenstein, Stephen Treloar and Angelina Rascouet.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Levin in Washington at alevin24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Case at bcase4@bloomberg.net, Tony Robinson

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