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U.S. aviation agency to declare Boeing 737 Max 8 airworthy but will act on any safety concerns

Reuters

The United States will tell international carriers later Monday that the agency believes the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is airworthy but officials emphasized they will “take immediate action” if regulators identify any safety issue following Sunday’s fatal crash in Ethiopia.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said on Monday the Federal Aviation Administration would issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community, or CANIC, for Boeing 737 MAX 8 operators at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT).

“If the FAA identifies an issue that affects safety, the department will take immediate and appropriate action,” Chao told reporters. “I want people to be assured that we take these incidents, these accidents very seriously.”

Boeing Co. did not immediately comment Monday.

Canada is taking a similar approach and its transport minister said he will not hesitate to act once the cause of the crash is known.

An Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet bound for Nairobi crashed minutes after take-off on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board and raising questions about the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, a new model that also crashed and killed 189 people in Indonesia in October.

FAA chief Dan Elwell on Monday said the notification basically “informs the international community where we are and sort of a one answer to the whole community.” He dubbed it a “broadcast to the world about where we are.”

The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are both on scene in Ethiopia, Chao said.

Boeing’s share price dropped 10 percent in early trading on Monday at the prospect that two such crashes in such a short time could reveal flaws in its new plane. They were down 5.8 percent in the late-afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The 737 line, which has flown for more than 50 years, is the world’s best-selling modern passenger aircraft and viewed as one of the industry’s most reliable.

China ordered its airlines to ground the jet, a move followed by Indonesia and Ethiopia. Other airlines, from North America to the Middle East, kept flying the 737 MAX 8 on Monday after Boeing said it was safe.