Singapore temporarily suspended the operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 Max jets into and out of the country - the first nation to do so - following two fatal accidents involving the aircraft in less than five months. A Lion Air 737 Max jet crashed soon after take-off from Jakarta last October, triggering questions over whether the plane's new anti-dive system was to blame. Then, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 crashed near Addis Ababa earlier this month. Nearly 350 people died in the two disasters. Singapore's action was a decisive reminder that the safety of passengers and crew must override the profitability of airlines and the commercial prospects of aircraft manufacturers, to say nothing of the timetables of commuters. The Republic's decision affected SilkAir, Singapore Airlines' regional arm, but it was taken in the broader interest of preserving Singapore's reputation as an aviation hub that takes the life of every passenger and crew seriously.
The international ramifications of the two crashes are growing in intensity. Global regulators have grounded the existing fleet of more than 300 Max aircraft, and deliveries of nearly 5,000 more, worth more than US$500 billion (S$673 billion), are on hold. Now, the American federal authorities have begun a criminal probe of the certification process for the new 737 Max planes, even as Europe and Canada seek their own guarantees over safety. As a consequence, the world's largest plane-maker is facing its gravest crisis in years.