WASHINGTON — The U.S. has issued an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft “effective immediately,” in the wake of the crash of an Ethiopian Airliner that killed 157 people.
Many nations had already barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from its airspace, but until President Trump’s announcement, the Federal Aviation Administration had said that it didn’t have any data to show the jets are unsafe. Trump cited “new information” that had come to light in the ongoing investigation into incident. He did not elaborate.
“All of those planes are grounded, effective immediately,” Trump said during a scheduled briefing on border security.
Trump said any airplane currently in the air will go to its destination and then be grounded. He added all airlines and affected pilots had been notified.
Trump said the safety of the American people is of “paramount concern,” and added that the FAA would soon put out a statement on the action.
Trump said the decision to ground the aircraft “didn’t have to be made, but we thought it was the right decision.”
The president insisted that the announcement was co-ordinated with aviation officials in Canada, U.S. carriers and aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
“Boeing is an incredible company,” Trump said. “They are working very, very hard right now and hopefully they’ll quickly come up with an answer.”
The U.S. had been the only country with any substantial number of 737 Max 8s still allowing the planes to fly. According to reports, American Airlines has 24 Boeing 737 Max 8s in its fleet. Southwest has 34. United has 14 Boeing 737 Max 9s.
This morning Canada’s Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced that Canada would ground the 737 Max 8s, and ban the aircraft from Canadian airspace. The decision, an about-face from the past couple of days, was based on what Garneau said was new data showing “that threshold has been crossed” with potential similarities between the ET302 crash and the Lion Air crash five months ago.
“Yes there will be some disruption. It’s unfortunate but we must put safety at the top of the agenda,” said Garneau. “The airlines have been very understanding. For the moment, caution has to dominate.”
Sunwing announced last night that it was temporarily suspending operations of its four 737 Max 8s.
Air Canada and WestJet are complying with the order and grounding their 737 Max 8 aircraft as well.
WestJet is also taking the necessary steps to safely remove all Boeing Max aircraft currently in service. WestJet, which has 13 of the 737 Max 8s, is also waiving its change fees.
With files from The Associated Press