Faith has been eroded in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the American regulator that has set the standard for global airline safety. It should have taken the lead in grounding the Boeing 737 MAX 8 after a second fatal crash involving the jet in less than five months, part of its role being to certify design of the United States manufacturers’ planes. Instead, China and dozens of other governments and carriers took the initiative and only after an order from US President Donald Trump, under pressure from passengers, pilots and lawmakers, did it make the decision. A better way is needed to ensure the world’s skies are safe. China, Hong Kong and Singapore acted promptly after the Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed about six minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board, among them eight Chinese including a Hongkonger. There was good reason; in suspiciously similar circumstances less than five months earlier, a Lion Air jet crashed into the sea off the Indonesian island of Java 12 minutes after leaving Jakarta, claiming all 189 lives. One by one, governments and airlines in Asia, Europe and Africa grounded or barred it, making the inaction from the FAA and Boeing conspicuous. Ethiopian crash jeopardises US$633 billion worth of Boeing jet orders The FAA, which initially said the plane was safe to fly, made its decision after investigators visited the Ethiopian crash site and compared satellite data that appeared to show both tragedies involved similar flight movements. Boeing grounded all 371 of the aircraft in operation, a move that also puts on hold the more than 5,000 orders made. But the alarm bells should have been ringing after the Indonesian accident; the preliminary report highlighted a faulty sensor, erroneous flight data and software that the pilots were unable to override. The plane, although marketed by Boeing as a more fuel-efficient and passenger-friendly upgrade of the 737, had engines higher and farther out along the wings than earlier generations, requiring the software to correct pitch during flight. Boeing nonetheless did not determine that pilots needed to be retrained, nor did it highlight the presence of the software in the jet’s manual. Only after the Lion Air crash did it issue an advisory and in light of the sensor failure, began working on a software update that has yet to be issued. US pilots have since anonymously complained of handling problems with the plane and there have been accusations that the FAA and Boeing have too cosy a relationship. Ethiopian Airlines obviously thinks so – it will send the black box flight recorder to Europe for analysis rather than the US. There have been failings and corrections are needed. Boeing and the FAA should not allow MAX models to fly again until they have genuinely been proven safe. Restoring confidence will not be easy.