Indonesia’s Garuda Airlines cancels order for 49 Boeing 737 Max jets

Indonesia’s Garuda Airlines cancels order for 49 Boeing 737 Max jets
JAKARTA, INDONESIA—Indonesia’s national airline Garuda Indonesia is moving to cancel an order for 49 Boeing 737 Max 8 jets following the deadly crashes involving two of the aircraft, a spokesman for the company said Friday.

The decision comes less than two weeks after an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on-board. A flight of Lion Air, a low-cost Indonesian airline, crashed in October shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 passengers and crew.

Both crashes involved the 737 Max 8 model and have brought intense scrutiny to U.S.-based Boeing, which marketed the 737 Max 8 as a fuel-efficient jet of the future, as well as to the Federal Aviation Administration. Garuda Indonesia’s cancellation is believed to be the first scrapping of an order for the plane in reaction to the crashes.

Ikhsan Rosan, a spokesman for Garuda Indonesia, told The Washington Post the decision to cancel the order was due to “consumers’ low confidence” in the airplanes following the crashes. The order was first announced in October 2014.

Rosan said airline officials told Boeing of the decision by letter and were scheduled to meet with representatives from Boeing to discuss the matter on March 28. A spokesman for Boeing said the company does not comment on discussions with customers.

“The discussion won’t be easy,” he said. Garuda Indonesia ordered 50 of the aircraft, Rosan said, and one has been delivered but was grounded after the Ethiopian Airlines crash earlier this month. Garuda Indonesia has a fleet size of 144 aircraft, according to the company’s website. An additional 58 aircraft are operated by its low-cost carrier, Citilink.

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Authorities investigating the crash of Lion Air flight 610 say erroneous sensor data triggered an automated anti-stall feature, known as the MCAS, in the new Max planes. The glitch kept pushing the plane’s nose down, ultimately causing it to plunge into the Java Sea, investigators found. Divers scoured the waters off the coast of Jakarta for the plane’s two “black boxes.” The voice recorder was recovered in January.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash appeared to share similarities with the Lion Air case, including an erratic up-and-down flight path and the pilot reporting “flight control” problems shortly before crashing, authorities said. Investigators in France and Ethiopia then said information from the Ethiopian flight data recorder showed “clear similarities” with the Lion Air flight.

On Thursday, investigators in Jakarta confirmed that a third pilot was aboard the same Lion Air plane during a flight on Oct. 28, a day before it crashed. During that flight, the plane experienced similar issues with the MCAS system, but that pilot reportedly disconnected the system.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General and the Department of Justice are looking into the Boeing 737 Max following the crashes.
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