Fallout continues for American, Southwest after FAA grounds Boeing Max jets

The CEO of Southwest Airlines on Thursday apologized to customers for the inconvenience caused by the grounding of dozens of Boeing 737 Max 8's.

Both Southwest and American say they are working to reschedule customers who were booked on flights that are now cancelled.

Investigators released pictures on Thursday of one of the data recorders from the Ethiopian Airlines crash that led to the grounding order. Both black boxes are now in France for analysis with help from three U.S. investigators.

The FAA said Wednesday that satellite data shows similarities between the crash in Ethiopia and another accident with same type of Boeing jet last year in Indonesia. The crashes have focused attention on pilot training and a new safety system on those jets.

Pilot and aviation attorney Ron McCallum said the preliminary findings of the two recent Boeing 737 Max crashes alone warrant the global grounding. 

“We have a history now of these very similar, if not identical problems, related directly to a level of automation within that aircraft,” McCallum said. “Given the fact that Boeing and the NTSB went out to this latest crash and have all but said, they suspect the MCAS system to be culprit here.”

The MCAS system is automated control designed to take over from the pilot in the event the aircraft stalls on takeoffs and landings. 

Pilots are usually the first ones to demand grounding an aircraft, especially if they believe the flight is unsafe. But despite the global grounding of the Boeing Max 8's, Southwest pilots stand by the safety of the aircraft.

Southwest has 34 Max 8 aircraft and the head of its pilots’ union, Capt. Jon Weaks, said he's "extremely confident" in the aircraft.

“Southwest has compiled and analyzed data from more than 41,000 flights ... and the data supports Southwest's continued confidence in the airworthiness and safety of the Max,” Weaks said.

McCallum believes there’s more work to do.

“Training for something that’s not supposed to happen is one thing, training for something that the airline and Boeing has anticipated is going to happen is different,” he said.

American Airlines has 24 Max 8's and its pilots’ union said in a statement: "...the safety and security of our team members and our customers remains our top priority. We continue to believe the Boeing 737 Max aircraft is safe and that our pilots are well-trained and well-equipped to operate it."

The specific cause of the crash in Ethiopia and Indonesia remains unknown. McCallum said if a safety mechanism is suspect in either case, training to disable it is not a long-term fix.

“If you’re prepared to disable a level of automation that’s designed to keep you and your family safe because you know, or should know, that it’s going to fail, you’re taking an unnecessary and unreasonable risk with Public Safety,” McCallum said.