American Airlines extends cancellation of 737 Max 8 flights

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By Jay Blackman, Kalhan Rosenblatt and The Associated Press

American Airlines has extended its grounding of the 24 Boeing 737 Max aircrafts in its fleet through April 24, the company said in a statement released Sunday.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump announced an emergency order from the Federal Aviation Administration, which grounded Boeing 737 Max jets in the wake of an Ethiopian Airlines crash and a Lion Air accident in October that together killed 346 people.

American Airlines said it is still awaiting information from the FAA, Department of Transportation, National Transportation Safety Board, other regulatory authorities and Boeing before the planes can be put back into rotation.

“In the meantime, and in an effort to provide more certainty to our customers and team members and better protect our customers on other flights to their final destination, American has extended cancellations through April 24, which will result in approximately 90 cancellations each day,” the airline said in a statement.

American Airlines said it would contact affected customers directly.

The airline’s announcement comes amid reports that warning and training requirements set for the now-grounded aircraft may not have been adequate

After the Lion Air crash off Indonesia in October, the FAA and Boeing “came up with contents that we incorporated in our working manuals and also briefed all our pilots. But today we believe that might not have been enough,” said Tewolde Gebremariam, Ethiopian Airlines chief.

Ethiopian Airlines insists the carrier’s pilots went through all the extra training required by Boeing and the FAA to fly the 737 Max 8 jet.

FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford declined to comment, citing an open investigation. Boeing on Saturday detailed planned flight-control software fixes for the plane and said it will pay to train airline pilots.

Gebremariam said earlier in the week that the training was meant to help crews shift from an older model of the 737 to the Max 8, which entered airline service in 2017. In a statement, he said pilots were also made aware of an emergency directive issued by the FAA after the Lion Air crash, which killed 189 people.

Ethiopian Airlines has said there is a “clear similarity” between the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, citing preliminary information from the flight data recorder.

Although the causes of the crashes haven’t been determined, investigators in the Lion Air disaster have focused on an automated system designed to use information from two sensors to help prevent a dangerous aerodynamic stall.

It is not known whether the same flight-control system played a role in the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines jet shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, but regulators say both planes had similar erratic flight paths, an important part of their decision to ground the roughly 370 Max planes around the world.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation and Space will hold a hearing about the state of airline safety in the wake of the most recent crash and the grounding of the 737 Max aircrafts.

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