A Boeing 737 Max plane that Norwegian Air was trying to reposition was forced to land in France after Germany blocked it from its airspace.
Norwegian Air was moving the plane from Malaga, Spain, where it has been grounded since March 12, to Stockholm, Sweden. The plane was in French airspace when German air controllers denied it entry to German airspace.
Flight-tracking data from the website FlightRadar24 shows the Norwegian Air 737 Max circled about eight times northwest of Strasbourg, France, before turning around and landing near Paris.
Aviation regulators around the world grounded all Boeing 737 Max aircraft after the March 10 crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 killed all 157 people aboard. The crash occurred five months after another Boeing 737 Max plane operated by Lion Air crashed off the coast near Jakarta, Indonesia five months earlier, killing 189 people.
Some airline companies have been operating a small number of 737 Max flights without passengers after the global grounding to relocate planes and consolidate fleets. The planes will remain grounded until Boeing completes a software update that it says will correct problems with the anti-stall system on 737 Max aircraft.
According to Business Insider, Norwegian Air said the repositioning flight had been approved by Eurocontrol, the European Union’s air-traffic management organization, as well as the EU’s aviation regulatory body, the European Aviation Safety Agency.
However, each individual European nation can approve or deny aircraft entering its airspace. Norwegian Air maintains that German and French authorities sent a notice that prohibited Boeing 737 Max repositioning flights from their airspace, forcing the plane to land.
A spokesperson for German air-traffic controller Deutsche Flugsicherung told Business Insider that it told Norwegian all Boeing 737 Max flights would stay grounded until Sept. 8. However, a Norwegian Air spokesperson refuted that, telling Business Insider it “did not receive any notice from the German authorities prior to the positioning flight departing.”
“If we had received any contrary information, we obviously wouldn’t have taken off,” the spokesperson told Business Insider.
The incident underscores the uphill battle Boeing could continue to face when or if the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approves the software fix and reopens U.S. airspace to the 737 Max. Aviation regulators in other countries may not agree with an FAA approval and keep their airspace closed to the aircraft, potentially creating a patchwork of open and closed airspace that could make some international flights impractical.
Mike Andrews, a lawyer in the firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability section, focuses much of his practice on aviation accident litigation. He has represented people seriously injured in aviation crashes, and the family of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes. Currently, Mike represents family members of victims in the Ethiopian crash. In this work, he has visited the site of that plane crash and has met with the Ethiopian transportation minister and investigators.