Russian accident probe agency halts all Boeing 737 certificates; carriers stunned

AFP-JIJI

The Russian agency that investigates air accidents called on Thursday for a halt to the use of Boeing 737 planes in the country, citing “serious deficiencies.

Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) said it had to “halt all certificates” given out to Boeing 737-type planes until U.S. and Russian authorities confirm “they are in a condition that ensures their safe use.”

The move caught the industry — which widely uses the 737 jets made by the U.S. giant — by complete surprise as airlines scrambled to work out what impact it would have.

Representatives of all airlines have been summoned to a meeting Friday on the issue, a source in one Russian carrier that uses the aircraft told AFP, adding that for the time being the company’s Boeing 737 continue to serve their usual routes.

“This has never happened before,” the source said. “Usually they cancel the certificate for just one (airline) company.”

In a letter to U.S. and Russian air authorities, MAK, which heads investigations of air accidents on the territory across several ex-Soviet nations, said it had asked the U.S. air transport agency to ensure fail-proof use of altitude control on the Boeing 737, but did not get an adequate response.

A Boeing 737 owned by Russian company Tatarstan Airlines crashed in Kazan on Nov. 17, 2013, killing 50 passengers and crew.

MAK said in its last update on the investigation that its technical committee probed the altitude control system, concluding that there was no evidence of system failure.

The move did not appear to be connected to the crash of an Airbus A321 flown by a Russian carrier in Egypt on Saturday.