President Donald Trump announced this afternoon that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would order all Boeing 737 Max-8 and Max-9 planes grounded in the U.S. following Sunday’s plane crash in Ethiopia that killed 157 people and an October crash in Indonesia that killed 189. The U.S. is the last major country on the planet to ground the planes.
“Boeing is an incredible company. They are working very, very hard right now, and hopefully they’ll very quickly come up with the answer, but until they do the planes are grounded,” President Trump said. He added that the FAA would soon be making an announcement about what he called an “emergency order.”
In a statement to Gizmodo, American Airlines, one of the three U.S.-based carriers that fly the planes, said that it was informed by the FAA earlier today “that based on new information, they are grounding the United States Boeing 737 MAX fleet out of an abundance of caution.” From American Airlines:
American Airlines has 24 aircraft affected by this directive. We appreciate the FAA’s partnership, and will continue to work closely with them, the Department of Transportation, National Transportation Safety Board and other regulatory authorities, as well as our aircraft and engine manufacturers. Our teams will make every effort to rebook customers as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.
Canada became the second to last country to ground the 737 Max just a few hours ago. Canadian officials said that “there are similarities” between the two crashes which prompted the decision.
President Donald Trump seemed to echo the sentiment coming from Canada when he said at the White House today that there has been “new information and physical evidence that we’ve received from the site.”
Trump added that all airlines have been notified and that they “are agreeing with this” decision to ground the planes. It could not immediately be determined whether the airlines actually agree with the decision.
Investigators are still investigating the cause of Sunday’s crash, but the crash in October may have been related to automation in the aircraft that forced the nose of the plane down unnecessarily. Officially, it’s not yet clear that Sunday’s crash had anything to do with automation, but this decision by both the United States and Canada sure makes that seem more likely.
China, Indonesia, Australia, and Malaysia were among some of the first countries to ground the 737 Max before other countries in Europe followed suit.
Boeing released a statement that curiously makes it sound like it was their recommendation to ground the plane. As aviation experts have pointed out, the CEO of Boeing reportedly implored the president to not ground the planes in a phone call earlier this week.
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.
A software fix for the aircraft was in the works at Boeing back in January, but as the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, “the federal government’s recent shutdown also halted work on the fix for five weeks.” Boeing has most recently said that it will deliver a software update no later than April.
Just three American-based carriers fly the Boeing 737 Max series. Southwest Airlines had 34 of the Max-8 operating in its fleet and American Airlines had 24 in operation. Both companies had hundred more on order from Boeing. United didn’t fly the Max-8, which was the precise model that crashed this past weekend and in October, but the company told Gizmodo earlier this week that it has 14 Max-9 planes.
Update 3:20pm: Added a statement from Boeing.