A growing number of countries around the world are grounding a popular type of passenger plane and that's the first story we're explaining. On Sunday, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff in the capital of Ethiopia. All 157 people aboard were killed. It happened less than six months after an incident on October 29th, when a Lion air flight crashed shortly after take off in the capital of Indonesia. All 189 people aboard that flight were killed.
The one thing these two flights have in common is that they were aboard new models of the same airplane, a Boeing 737 Max 8. It was introduced two years ago. It's a very technologically advanced jet. And it might be that technology that's causing its problems.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boeing bills its 737 Max as the fastest selling airplane in the company's history. A high tech, single-aisle jet, there are more than 5,000 on order for 100 airlines world wide. Many of them are in China and India. The 737 has a long history. Since the first twin jet Baby Boeing was introduced in 1967, it's grown into the best selling line of commercial jets in history. The Max 8 variant, launched in 2017, seats up to 200 passengers. It was designed to offer airlines greater range, better fuel efficiency than the models that came before. Like any new series, Boeing introduced brand-new technology and features into the 737 series, including the automatic safety system.
DAVID SOUCIE: This particular aircraft has a new, something new, as far as how the autopilot responds when the angle of attack. When the aircraft nose goes up too high, it pushes that nose down, even when the autopilot's off. And a lot of pilots aren't used to that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the case of Lion Air, Indonesia investigators say pilots repeatedly fought to override that system before the fatal crash of the plane back in October. The preliminary crash report said faulty sensors led the automated system to push the nose of the plane down again and again. It's not clear why the pilots did not follow the recognized procedure and turn the system off. Now, this crash, the second in a brand-new model plane shortly after takeoff. It's provoking more questions about the plane’s design and what Boeing has told the airlines.
CARL AZUZ: The CEO of Ethiopian Airlines says the pilot had flight control problems shortly before the plane crashed. But both accidents involving this Boeing model are under investigation. And there's no evidence at this point that the same problem caused them. Still, countries from Australia to China to the European Union and India have grounded the 737 Max 8 airplanes, making it illegal for them to fly in or over these nations. According to the Reuters News organization, Boeing says it's been developing a software update for the plane that's quote "designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer."
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration also said earlier this week that the aircraft is safe, though it has ordered Boeing to make some design changes to it. Some U.S. Senators are now saying the FAA should temporarily ground it until its proven air worthy. The U.S. and Canada are the only two countries where substantial numbers of these planes are still flying.