Thai Lion Air told to ground Boeing MAX 9 for seven days

PHOTO: The Nation/Asia News Network

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) has ordered Thai Lion Air to immediately suspend the use of its three Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft on all routes for seven days, citing safety concerns.

CAAT director-general Chula Sukmanop said the order will go into effect today, given that Boeing has yet to provide an explanation of the cause behind the recent crash of an Ethiopia Airlines 737 MAX 8 aircraft. Due to safety concerns, CAAT has coordinated with Thai Lion Air, which has 34 aircraft in the fleet, three of which are 737 MAX 9 aircraft.

Thai Lion Air can use its other aircraft during the period, while CAAT thoroughly examines its three Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes, Chula added.

A CAAT statement issued yesterday said the agency had reviewed additional technical information related to the Ethiopia Airlines crash, in which all 157 people on board were killed. "The decision was made after it was viewed that the [cause of the] accident may be [similar] on the operation of Boeing 737 MAX 9, though the real cause of the accident is not yet known clearly. Moreover, the aircraft manufacturer has yet to issue any risk-management measures or mechanisms that can ensure safety," the statement read.

Thai Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft that took off before the announcement are allowed to fly back. CAAT will also examine Thai Lion Air's risk-management measures as well as the training it provides to pilots flying all aircraft. It will also closely check the information provided by Boeing regarding ongoing safety examinations and reviews.

Several countries have banned the Boeing's 737 MAX 8 medium-haul workhorse jet from their airspace after the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

Several airlines have also grounded the MAX 8s in their fleet, but many others are continuing to fly the plane pending an investigation into the crash and possible guidance from Boeing.

A jet of the same model came down in Indonesia in October last year, killing all 189 people onboard. Chula said airlines that operate in Thailand could continue to order the 737 MAX models as he believes Boeing will solve the problem quickly. Nok Air's acting chief executive officer Pravej Ongartsittigul said the airline plans to lease six Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, two of which should be delivered in two years.

Pravej added that Nok Air will continue to closely monitor the situation and believes that by the time Boeing delivers the first lot, it will have completely solved the problems.