Boeing 737 MAX 8 makes emergency landing in Florida — while on its way to being grounded

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 that was on its way to California to be grounded had to make an emergency landing shortly after take-off at Orlando International Airport on Tuesday.

Southwest 8701, which was occupied by a pair of pilots and no passengers, took off from Orlando just before 3 p.m. local time, a spokesperson for the airline told Global News.

However, pilots reported a “performance issue” with one of the engines shortly after takeoff, and returned to Orlando where they made a safe emergency landing.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the engine complaint was not related to the software problem blamed for two recent fatal crashes involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8, the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 and the Lion Air crash in Indonesia on Oct. 29, 2018.

Both crashes occurred after the planes suffered malfunctions soon after take-off, with the 737 MAX 8’s anti-stall software one of the key areas of focus for investigations.

The 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft have since been ordered grounded across the U.S., but the FAA has allowed airlines to conduct passenger-less flights to move their aircraft.

The Southwest plane was on its way to Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, Calif., where Southwest has been sending all its 737 MAX 8 aircraft for storage.

It will instead be moved to Southwest’s maintenance facility in Orlando for a review, the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Orlando International Airport said that one of the airport’s three runways was shut down for cleaning after the emergency landing as standard procedure.

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 departs from Ronald Reagan-National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, March 12, 2019.

A Boeing spokesperson said the company was “aware of the incident and supporting our customer.”

Boeing has stopped all deliveries of its best-selling jet.

— With a file from the Associated Press

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