President Donald Trump says the U.S. is issuing an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft in the wake of a crash of an Ethiopian Airliner that killed 157 people.
Many nations in the world had already barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from its airspace, but until now, the Federal Aviation Administration had been saying that it didn’t have any data to show the jets are unsafe.
Trump said Wednesday that the FAA would be making the announcement soon to ground the planes.
He says any plane currently in the air will go to its destination and then be grounded.
Trump says pilots and airlines have been notified.
He says the safety of the American people is of “paramount concern.”
“Hopefully they’ll come up with an answer, but until they do the planes are grounded,” said Mr. Trump, making the announcement during a White House meeting on drugs at the southern border.
Mr. Trump said the decision was based on new information. The decision to ground the planes comes as other nations grounded the aircraft type, and under increasing pressure for the U.S. to follow suit. Canada also called for the grounding of all such planes Wednesday. Mr. Trump said the U.S. didn’t have to ground the planes, but it was important to do so for psychological reasons as well as other reasons.
The president said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will make an announcement shortly.
Mr. Trump spoke with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg on Tuesday, and the executive assured the president he believes the planes are safe.
The US is the last country to suspend the aircraft following the Ethiopia disaster. The crash on Sunday in Addis Ababa killed 157 people.
It was the second fatal Max 8 disaster in five month after one crashed over Indonesia in October, killing 189 people.
American Airlines said that the FAA had had informed the company that “based on new information, they are grounding the United States Boeing 737 MAX fleet out of an abundance of caution”.
Earlier on Wednesday, Canada grounded the planes after its transport minister Marc Garneau said he had received new evidence about the crash. He said that satellite data showed possible similarities between flight patterns of Boeing 737 Max planes operating in Canada and the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed. He said: “As a result of new data that we received this morning, and had the chance to analyze, and on the advice of my experts and as a precautionary measure, I issued a safety notice.”
American Airlines, which has 24 aircraft affected by the suspension, said: “Our teams will be working to rebook customers as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”
Several U.S. pilots who reported having trouble controlling Boeing 737 Max planes early in their flights used NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System to flag issues they encountered.
“In two cases, pilots flying in the U.S. late last year had their planes pitch down unexpectedly after departures. Both times, the crew disengaged the autopilot and were able to keep flying safely,” NPR’s Russell Lewis reports. “In a third report, a pilot complained that the Boeing 737 MAX’s flight manual was inadequate and ‘almost criminally insufficient.'”
On Tuesday, the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines’ 15,000 pilots, issued a statement saying the union “remains confident in the Boeing 737 Max and in our members’ ability to safely fly it.”
The group said its pilots “have the necessary training and experience to troubleshoot problems and take decisive actions on the flight deck to protect our passengers and crew.”
While the union endorsed the continued use of the 737 Max, it added, “The flying public should also be aware that American Airlines’ Boeing 737 Max planes are unique.”
“The two dozen 737 Max aircraft in the American Airlines fleet are the only ones equipped with two AOA [Angle of Attack] displays, one for each pilot, providing an extra layer of awareness and warning,” the union said.
Those displays could be crucial in avoiding a sudden downward pitch — which Boeing and the FAA have acknowledged as a risk, in the airworthiness bulletin that was issued shortly after the crash of Lion Air Flight 610.
The airworthiness directive said Boeing had found the automated anti-stall system on its 737 Max 8 and Max 9 models can be triggered by a sensor reporting an erroneously high angle of attack — meaning the system believes the nose is too high and the plane is stalling, even though it’s not.
The problem presents “a potential for repeated nose-down trim commands,” the directive states, noting, “This condition, if not addressed, could cause the flight crew to have difficulty controlling the airplane” and possibly resulting in a crash.
The investigation into the Ethiopian crash is still in its early stages, and experts have warned against drawing conclusions, despite similarities between the two deadly disasters. The Ethiopian Airlines plane’s digital flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were recovered on Monday, and GebreMariam said they will be sent overseas for analysis, likely to either the U.S. or a country in Europe.
In Consultation with the FAA, NTSB and its Customers, Boeing Supports Action to Temporarily Ground 737 MAX Operations
Boeing continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. However, after consultation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and aviation authorities and its customers around the world, Boeing has determined — out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety — to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft.
“On behalf of the entire Boeing team, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in these two tragic accidents,” said Dennis Muilenburg, president, CEO, Chairman of The Boeing Company.
“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution. Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be. There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”
Boeing makes this recommendation and supports the decision by the FAA.