FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) – A system used on the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft that was grounded by the FAA on Wednesday has been built in Fort Wayne and shipped to Washington state for installation, likely on hundreds of passenger jets.
BAE Systems operates a production facility near Fort Wayne International Airport. As the 737 MAX series was developed, BAE received the contract to produce spoiler control units for the aircraft — parts that affect the lift of the plane.
Reports in 2013 noted the assignment of that process to the Fort Wayne BAE facility, but it was not immediately clear if the plant continues to produce the parts.
ABC21 contacted BAE both locally and at its corporate headquarters. The company confirmed its role in producing the MAX series jets and, early Wednesday evening, provided the following statement:
The cause of the Ethiopian Airlines crash remains under investigation. As a trusted supplier to Boeing on the 737 MAX, we stand ready to provide support and assistance to the investigation if needed. Any further inquiries regarding this matter should be directed to Boeing.
When the contract was announced, officials touted the “reliability and cost effectiveness” of the BAE spoiler design.
“Our spoiler control electronics will help Boeing achieve its goal of improving the handling characteristics for the world’s most advanced single-aisle plane, the 737 MAX,” said Dr. Ehtisham Siddiqui, vice president and general manager of Commercial Aircraft Solutions at BAE Systems.
In recent years, BAE employment locally has measured at or slightly below 1,000 workers. The company focuses on defense and commercial electronics used “from the depths of the ocean to the far reaches of space.”
On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump announced that the FAA would be grounding all 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft following the second of two deadly accidents in recent months.
Neither of those incidents happened in the United States or involved U.S. carriers.
Trump says pilots and airlines have been notified.
He says the safety of the American people is of “paramount concern.”
The move follows similar orders by regulatory agencies in countries around the globe and voluntary groundings by some operators of the 737 MAX series planes within days of an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people.
Domestic carriers flying the 737 MAX 8 or 9 include Southwest Airlines and American Airlines. The model aircraft are not used in passenger service at Fort Wayne International Airport, where smaller jets are the standard.
The FAA late Wednesday said it decided to issue the grounding order because of enhanced satellite tracking data and physical evidence on the ground that linked the Ethiopian jet’s movements to those of an Indonesian Lion Air flight that plunged into the Java Sea in October and killed 189 people.
The Ethiopian plane’s flight data and voice recorders were to be sent to France Wednesday night for analysis. Some aviation experts have warned that finding answers in that crash, which killed 157 people, could take months.