WASHINGTON – The FAA developed new information from the wreckage of a 737 crash in Ethiopia that painted similarities to an earlier crash in Indonesia, leading the agency to ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft in the U.S., three people familiar with the matter said.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday grounded all Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, effective immediately. The wording in the emergency order is similar to that used by Canadian officials who hours earlier had issued an order grounding the planes.
“Any plane currently in the air will go to its destination and thereafter be grounded until further notice,” Trump said. “The safety of the American people, and all people, is our paramount concern.”
The order states that the similarities “warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed.”
Trump's announcement followed one by Canada's transportation minister grounding all the jets, saying a review of satellite-tracking data by his country's experts found similarities between Sunday's crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet, which killed 157 people, and an October Lion Air crash, which killed 189.
Canada's decision had left the United States and its carriers as the last major users of the aircraft. Shortly after 3 p.m. the FAA issued a statement confirming the order.
“The FAA is ordering the temporary grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory.” the statement said. “The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today. This evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to FAA this morning, led to this decision.”
The order temporarily halts all flights of the Boeing Max 8 and Max 9 planes, effective immediately.
“On March 13, 2019, the investigation of the (Ethiopian Airlines) crash developed new information from the wreckage concerning the aircraft's configuration just after takeoff that, taken together with newly refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft's flight path, indicates some similarities” between the Ethiopia and Indonesia crashes, according to the order.
Once current U.S. flights land, they are grounded, according to the order. Special flight permits may be issued, “including to allow non-passenger carrying flights, as needed, for purposes of flight to a base for storage, production flight testing, repairs, alterations, or maintenance,” according to the order.
The order also says “experimental airworthiness certificates” may be issued “to support certification of design changes.”
The order will ground more than 70 aircraft and covers 737 Max 8s and Max 9s. The aircraft is used by American and Southwest airlines, which combined have 58 Max 8s in their fleets. United Airlines has 14 of the Max 9 planes.
Boeing said it continues to have full confidence in the safety of both the Max 8 and Max 9, but after consulting with the FAA, the NTSB, aviation authorities and its customers, it decided to suspend operations of its entire global fleet of 371 Max aircraft.
“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,” the company said, adding that it supported the FAA's decision.