Trump Issues Emergency Order To Ground Boeing 737 Max 8 Planes

“All of those planes are grounded effectively immediately,” the president said hours after Canada grounded the aircraft following the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

President Donald Trump has announced an immediate grounding of all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 planes in the wake of a worldwide boycott of the model following two fatal crashes within five months.

“All of those planes are grounded effectively immediately,” Trump said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Boeing is an incredible company. They are working very, very hard right now and hopefully, they’ll come up with an answer, but until they do, all planes are grounded.”

Boeing, responding to Trump’s announcement, said it “continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max” but had recommended the ban to the Federal Aviation Administration “out of an abundance of caution.”

“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,” the company said.

In its own statement, the FAA said it had made the decision to ground the planes after reviewing new data evidence, which included satellite data, earlier in the day.

The U.S. airlines with 737 Max planes in their fleets are American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, which has the world’s largest 737 Max fleet with 34 jets. (Those planes account for less than 5 percent of the airline’s daily flights, the company said.) United says it has 14 737 Max planes and American says it has 24.

In a statement responding to Trump’s emergency order, Southwest said it is working with passengers of canceled 737 Max 8 flights to rebook them onto other planes. The other two airlines issued similar statements.

Trump’s announcement came just hours after Canadian Transportation Minister Marc Garneau made a similar announcement following Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people, including 18 Canadians.

Just five months earlier, a Lion Air crash in Indonesia, involving the same model of plane, killed 187 people.

The U.S. was one of the last countries to ban the aircraft. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg assured Trump about the plane’s safety in a phone call Tuesday. The FAA also said it had found no reason to ground the planes.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Garneau said Canada’s decision to ground the planes came after aviation experts reviewed new satellite tracking data that found similar vertical fluctuations by both the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air planes just before they crashed. He cited possible issues with the model’s autopilot.

President Donald Trump announced the grounding during a briefing at the White House on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump announced the grounding during a briefing at the White House on Wednesday.

In the October crash involving the Lion Air flight in Indonesia, Garneau said the plane’s software appeared to go haywire and force the plane’s nose to tilt downward after erroneously receiving data that it was too high following takeoff. The pilot attempted to stop the software and correct the plane, but ultimately, “the pilot lost that fight with the software.”

Garneau said the Ethiopian Airlines plane’s automatic system similarly kicked in and forced the jet’s nose down after determining that it was too high after takeoff.

“There are, and I hasten to say, not conclusive, but there are similarities that exceed a certain threshold in our minds with respect to the possible cause of what happened in Ethiopia,” Garneau said. “This is not conclusive, but it is something that points possibly in that direction, and at this point, we feel that that threshold has been crossed and that is why we are taking these measures.” 

President Donald Trump has announced an immediate grounding of all Boeing 737 Max 8 and 737 Max 9 planes following two f
President Donald Trump has announced an immediate grounding of all Boeing 737 Max 8 and 737 Max 9 planes following two fatal crashes within five months.

On Tuesday, airline pilots on at least two U.S. flights also said an automated system on their Boeing 737 Max planes seemed to cause their planes to tilt down suddenly. In both instances, this loss of control occurred after the pilots engaged the autopilot. They said they regained control of the plane after turning the system off.

Garneau stressed that Canada is banning the model out of caution.

“We don’t know why the Ethiopian aircraft behaved the way it did and we don’t even know what happened precisely with it, and that’s what we want to get to the bottom of,” he said. “But I would repeat once again: This is not the proof that [it] is the same root problem.”

As Reuters reported on Tuesday, Trump has deep ties with Boeing, having personally negotiated with Muilenburg about the cost of a future Air Force One. He has also used Boeing products and locations for major announcements during his presidency. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan worked at Boeing for 31 years.

Nikki Haley, Trump’s former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has also been nominated to join Boeing’s board of directors at its annual shareholders meeting on April 29. 

This story has been updated with details about flight cancellations.