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Boeing 737 Max readies for takeoff after EU signals safety approval is imminent | Business

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Boeing’s 737 Max has taken a step closer to a return to the skies after the European regulator signalled that the grounded plane could be allowed to fly before the end of the year.

The 737 Max model, previously Boeing’s bestseller, has been inching towards reauthorisation in the US and EU, the two key jurisdictions, after being banned from flying around the world in March 2019 following two fatal crashes.

Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (Easa), said the 737 Max had reached its required safety standards after changes to its systems, in an interview with Bloomberg News.

Approval for the model would mark a key milestone for Boeing, unblocking one of its most important earners as it struggles with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused widespread disruption in the aviation industry. Boeing shares rose by 5% in early trading, before retreating to a 3% gain at midday on Wall Street, at just under $170 per share.

Boeing’s new advice

Boeing issues revised instructions on how pilots should react to erroneous readings from “angle of attack” sensors, believed to be a key factor in the Lion Air crash.

Ethiopia Airlines crash

Flight ET302 crashes about six minutes after taking off from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people onboard. The captain had reported difficulties, and flight radar data shows the aircraft was climbing erratically with an unstable vertical airspeed.

Boeing grounds fleet

The EU, Canada and the US all ground the Boeing 737 Max. Boeing itself issues a statement saying it “continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max”, but that “out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public” it w recommending the grounding of the entire global fleet of 371 aircraft.

Interim report findings

The interim report into the Ethiopian Airlines crash finds that the pilots correctly followed Boeing’s emergency instructions, but were still unable to stop the plane’s nose repeatedly pointing down. The jet hit an airspeed of 500 knots (575mph), well above its operational limits, before cockpit data recordings stopped.

A new potential risk

Airlines extend their ban on using the Boeing 737 Max after the US aviation regulator said it had identified a new potential risk with the plane.

Airbus soars

In the wake of Boeing’s troubles, Airbus seems set to overtake it as the world’s biggest planemaker. As Boeing reported 239 commercial plane deliveries in the first half of the year, a 37% fall, rival Airbus shipped 389 deliveries, up 28% on the same period last year.

Sensor concerns ignored

During congressional hearings into Boeing’s handling of the crisis, lawmakers were shown internal records revealing that three years before the crashes an employee had expressed concern that an anti-stall flight system could be triggered by a single sensor.

The crisis deepens with the release of hundreds of internal messages between employees working on the 737 Max aircraft, which boasted of deceiving safety regulators and said the plane had been “designed by clowns”.

Boeing orders inspections of its entire fleet of grounded 737 Max planes after it found foreign object debris in the fuel tanks of some of the mothballed planes.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), criticised for alleged oversights in allowing the plane to fly, is also close to recertifying the 737 Max. FAA boss Steve Dickson personally piloted a test flight last month.

Although every jurisdiction around the world has the power of approving planes to fly, in practice, most take their lead from US and European regulators.

Air accident investigators found that faulty sensors contributed to the two fatal crashes when an anti-stall system forced the nose of the planes down shortly after takeoff. The crashes killed a a total of 346 people on an Lion Air flight in Indonesia in October 2018 and an Ethopian Airlines plane in March 2019.

Easa said Boeing would have to introduce a software-based sensor to complement the two physical sensors on the next version of the plane, the Max 10, but that the regulator was satisfied that the most recent version was safe enough to fly as well.

“Our analysis is showing that this is safe, and the level of safety reached is high enough for us,” Ky said. “What we discussed with Boeing is the fact that with the third sensor, we could reach even higher safety levels.”

In an emailed statement, Easa said it was “currently in the process of reviewing the final documents” in relation to the plane. It would then go to public consultation for four weeks, Bloomberg reported.

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Regulatory approval of the 737 Max would mark a key milestone for Boeing, the US’s largest manufacturing company. The grounding of its most popular plane had already plunged it into crisis, eventually costing Dennis Muilenberg his job as chief executive.

The coronavirus pandemic caused an unprecedented slowdown in global aviation, which has prompted airlines around the world to cut back their orders. Boeing is axeing more than 16,000 jobs as it tries to reduce costs in response.

A Boeing spokeswoman said: “We continue to work closely with global regulators on the rigorous process to recertify the 737 Max and safely return the aeroplane to commercial service. We are committed to addressing the regulators’ questions and meeting all certification and regulatory requirements.”


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WHO holds briefing on coronavirus after cases hit 40 million

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[The stream is slated to start at 11 a.m. ET. Please refresh the page if you do not see a player above at that time.]

The World Health Organization is holding a briefing Monday on the coronavirus pandemic after the number of reported cases worldwide hit 40 million.

The grim milestone comes as various parts of Europe and the U.S. struggle to deal with an alarming surge in infections. On Friday, the WHO said that Europe’s coronavirus outbreak is “concerning” as the number of available intensive care beds continues to dwindle and near capacity in some regions.

“We know of a number of cities across Europe where ICU capacity will be reached in the coming weeks,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead. “That is concerning as we approach the flu season.”

Read CNBC’s live updates to see the latest news on the Covid -19 outbreak.

–CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this report.


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What are they and do they work?

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A man wears a face mask as he walks past a Wales souvenir store on October 19, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales. Wales will go into a national lockdown from Friday until November 9.

Matthew Horwood | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The term “circuit breaker” has become common parlance in the U.K. in recent weeks, as the country searches for a way to curb the second wave of the coronavirus in a short, sharp way.

The term was coined by scientific advisors to the British government who have recommended a two or three-week “mini lockdown. ” This time-limited set of strict restrictions would be designed to act as a “circuit breaker” to the infection rate, as the name implies.

Northern Ireland was the first part of the U.K. to announce that a “circuit breaker” lockdown would start on Oct. 16 and last for two weeks. Meanwhile on Monday, Wales announced a similar lockdown that will come into effect on Friday and last until Nov. 9.

Speaking at a press conference, Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said the mini lockdown, what he called a “firebreak,” would be “a short, sharp, shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and buy us more time.”

Scotland has already ramped up restrictions, and is reported to be considering a circuit breaker, whereas the U.K. government has still not decided whether to impose a mini lockdown on England to coincide with the half-term school holiday next week.

What are circuit breakers?

Essentially, circuit breakers are lockdowns but for a limited amount of time. They are designed to break the chain of infection, and bring the infection rate down. It’s hoped that circuit breakers will help to reduce pressure on health services as hospitalizations due to Covid-19 rise.

This is crucial for the U.K., which has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe, with its tally now standing at just over 744,000 cases with 43,816 fatalities, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. It is currently battling a dramatic second wave of infections, like the rest of Europe, particularly in northern England.

On Monday, 18,804 new daily infections were reported, up from 16,982 on Sunday. The seven-day average number of cases on Oct. 16 was 17,649, according to government data, compared to 14,588 a week before.

Scientists advising the government seem to favor circuit breakers, as does the opposition Labour Party, with both encouraging the government to implement a mini-lockdown.

Papers released last week showed that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) — a group of leading scientists that provides scientific advice to the U.K. government at times of crisis — had advised the government to go further with the restrictive measures it had implemented (such as restricting social gatherings to six people and forcing bars and restaurants to close at 10pm).

They first suggested a “circuit breaker,” or mini lockdown, a month ago and recommended banning households from mixing indoors and the closure of all bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms and hairdressers — essentially, a short-term repeat of the full lockdown seen earlier in the year.

Do they work?

Proponents of circuit breakers argue that although they won’t stop a virus in its tracks, they can suppress the spread of infections and buy governments and healthcare systems time to act. But while public health experts might advocate for them, business owners dread a return to lockdown.

Still, the consensus among experts is that circuit breakers can play a part in curbing an epidemic.

Speaking during a televised debate on Sunday on the merits of a short-term lockdown, Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London, said that “we do need stronger restrictions if we want the number of infections to go down.”

Matt Morgan, an intensive care unit consultant at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, has warned that the U.K. health care system could be “on its knees” without action. He told CNBC that while he’s not an epidemiologist and can’t comment on the effectiveness of a circuit breaker, action was needed to take the pressure off hospitals.

“What I do know is that the NHS struggles every winter so unless steps are taken to lessen the impact of Covid on all aspects of healthcare, it may become unmanageable,” he said.

However, circuit breakers are not entirely straightforward. Within the same discussion, Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, added that due to the lag effect between infection and hospitalization of people with Covid-19, the effectiveness of a short lockdown would remain to be seen.

“We would have to wait and see for indications that case numbers are coming down. This is why the testing and tracing system and surveillance is really important — to have a line of sight of how many people actually have the virus. If you wait to rely on hospitalizations and on deaths then it’s too late … they are lag indicators and we need lead indicators,” she said.

Nonetheless, she said a mini lockdown was now inevitable in England. “It’s like a fire that’s raging, you can’t just turn your back on it and think it’ll go away.”

A YouGov survey for Sky News published Monday showed that 67% of 1,781 people surveyed between October 15 and 16 back a circuit breaker lockdown.


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Lowe’s pivots to a broader selection of holiday gifts

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Months before the coronavirus pandemic began, Lowe’s ordered merchandise for the holiday season. It decided to carry items that shoppers might not expect in its stores or on its website: exercise equipment, bamboo bedding, air fryers, movie projectors and battery-powered scooters.

The home improvement retailer said Tuesday that it will kick off its holiday deals later this week. It revealed its broader mix of merchandise, aimed at making home feel cozy, festive and fun during a celebratory season disrupted by a pandemic and recession.

Its bet on new categories could come at a fortunate time. Americans are spending more of their hours at home, converting their garages or basements into gyms and cooking more instead of going to restaurants. Spring is typically peak season in the home improvement business. Yet with Americans’ intensified focus on home, the holidays could be a more meaningful sales season for Lowe’s and its competitor, Home Depot.

“In this year of the home, Lowe’s is really a total home gift-giving destination as well as a shopping destination,” said Marisa Thalberg, Lowe’s chief brand and marketing officer, at a virtual news conference.

Among the changes this holiday season, Lowe’s will offer free delivery of fresh Christmas trees and wreaths that are $45 or more, a service its rival, Home Depot, has, too.

Customers can chat with an online gift advisor when they’re trying to pick what to buy or have a question, but don’t want to go to the store. Home professionals, such as contractors and plumbers, can take advantage of deals throughout November, as part of an event dubbed “PROvember.” Like other retailers, Lowe’s is stretching out its holiday sales and putting more of its deals online rather than having limited-time offers that draw congestion.

Home Depot adapted its holiday plans, too. It will extend Black Friday specials to nearly two months, feature Pinterest-inspired homemade gift ideas and put promotions on its mobile app first.

Lowe’s was in the midst of a turnaround effort, led by CEO Marvin Ellison, when the pandemic struck. Stay-at-home trends have complemented its strategic investments.

It revamped its mobile app and website shortly before the crisis, which helped prepare it for an uptick in online purchases. It sped along plans for curbside pickup and store lockers as customers gravitated toward contactless approaches. And it benefited from a hot real estate market and a migration of Americans to suburbs and rural areas, which created a whole new audience for its power tools, cans of paint and shiny, new kitchen appliances.

As of Monday’s close, Lowe’s shares have risen 46% year to date to $175.13. The gains bring its market value to $132.4 billion. In the past week, Lowe’s stock hit a 52-week high of $180.67.

This spring, the company planned to hire 53,000 seasonal employees and wound up adding nearly triple that — more than 155,000 people, company spokeswoman Jackie Pardini Hartzell said. She said a large number of those hires are staying on in seasonal or permanent roles over the holidays. The company has more than 320,000 employees in the U.S.

Bill Boltz, executive vice president of merchandising, referred to Lowe’s strong performance and said its digital improvements came at the right time.

“None of this would have happened had we not already been working on a lot of enhancements for Lowes.com,” he said.

Yet a year ago, he said, Lowe’s saw an opportunity to reflect the evolving idea of home and put in holiday orders that reflected that. For example, he said, it had already started talking to exercise equipment brands, including NordicTrack. Early next year, it will set up exercise equipment displays in select stores as part of a test.

“We thought that home fitness was one of those areas that we could play in as it relates to home improvement and we still feel that way,” he said. “The pandemic has just kind of escalated that.”

During the holidays, he said Lowe’s wants to make shopping on its website “a little bit of a treasure hunt.” It will feature products like Razor scooters, Melissa & Doug toys, Serta pillows and NordicTrack exercise equipment.

He said there are already early indicators that shoppers want to make their homes feel seasonal. He said sales of fall harvest and Halloween products, such as hay bales, pumpkins and scarecrows have been “above expectations.”

And, he said, sales of pre-lit and artificial Christmas trees “are off to a quick start.”

Thalberg said Lowe’s wants to “provide a source of inspiration,” whether a family takes on a home project or snaps a photo in its Christmas tree lot.

“People are getting a little tired through this situation,” she said. “And hopefully, the holidays become a period not to reflect on all the things that are different in ways that disappoint us, but to find the meaning and to revitalize their creativity about how to enjoy time at home.”


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