Civil Aviation Authority of S’pore made right call to ground all types of Boeing 737 Max planes

Australia, Malaysia, and the EU followed the S'pore authority's safety-first approach.

Martino Tan | March 13, 06:47 pm

On Tuesday morning (March 12), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) made the call to temporarily suspend operations of all variants of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft into and out of Singapore from 2pm the same day.

S’pore to ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 planes in wake of Ethiopian Airlines crash

In a Facebook post, Acting Transport Minister Vivian Balakrishnan confirmed the suspension of operations of all Boeing 737 MAX planes in and out of Singapore.

Although it was a simple statement by CAAS, the Singapore authority was swift and decisive in putting the safety of passengers ahead of other considerations.

This despite the fact that Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the official certifying authority for the 737 Max family, have declared that there is insufficient evidence to link Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash with the Lion Air plane crash five months ago.

In fact, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao reportedly resisted calls to ground the plane, and even flew one of them back to Washington, D.C. from Texas.

First country to ground all variants of Boeing 737 Max aircraft

Now, Singapore wasn’t the first aviation authority to make this move.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China was the first authority to order domestic airlines to suspend operations of the aircraft on Monday (Mar 11).

But according to the Straits Times, we are the first country to suspend the operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

The Financial Times reported that Singapore’s all-variants decision was followed by Australia and Malaysia on the evening of Tuesday, Mar 12.

By Wednesday morning (Singapore time), the Europeans, as reported by FT, also joined in the grounding of all Boeing 737 Max planes. Europe’s aviation safety regulator, the EU Aviation Safety Agency, issued a continent-wide ban on operations of Boeing’s 737 Max planes.

CAAS stepped in, even as SilkAir was “closely monitoring developments”

The move by CAAS came after SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines (SIA), initially decided to operate its Boeing 737 Max 8 flights as scheduled.

A SilkAir spokesperson told the media on Monday (Mar 11) that the company was “in contact with Boeing and are closely monitoring developments”.

The spokesperson added that “the safety of our passengers and crew is of utmost importance to SilkAir”.

SilkAir has six of the aircraft variant flying round the region, with The Business Times noting that SilkAir has a further 31 737 Max 8 planes on firm order.

Kudos to CAAS for its approach

As it stands, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has not mandated any further action. Boeing, understandably, has also expressed full confidence in the safety of its Max planes.

However, both the Ethiopian Airlines plane and the Lion Air plane were new planes of the same model.

And both went down shortly after take-off.

Imagine if this unfortunate incident were to occur near Changi Airport — bearing in mind especially that Singapore is, according to the World Economic Forum, among the world’s most densely populated countries:

Source: World Economic Forum website.

In a densely populated country like ours, the failure of an aircraft taking off from Changi will exact devastating consequences on our tiny island.

CAAS’s decisiveness in adopting a safety-first approach, despite the frustration and inconvenience of airlines using Boeing 737 Max, is commendable.

Top photo from Getty Images.

About Martino Tan

Martino’s parents named him after an Italian priest, Vatican's 1st ambassador to S’pore. He's inspired by the lives of Robert Kennedy & Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the words of George Orwell & William F. Buckley Jr., & the music of the Beatles.

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