The U.S. is issuing an emergency order Wednesday 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, President Donald Trump said.
Many nations had already barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from its airspace, but until 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 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 the announcement was coordinated 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.”
Joe Schwieterman, a professor of transportation at DePaul University, expects local disruptions right away.
“Airlines simply don’t keep enough spares anymore to deal with the grounding of more than a couple of planes,” Schwieterman said. “Southwest could lease a few planes to fill the gap but that’s going to take time. So the most pain will be felt in the next week as they scramble to make adjustments.”
Boeing issued a statement after the announcement:
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.
The Air Line Pilots Association said it “supports the decision by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transport Canada to ground the Boeing 737 MAX.”
The Chicago Department of Aviation, which operates O’Hare and Midway airports, referred all calls about the FAA order to the airlines.
Chicago-based United Airlines flies 14 planes covered by the order.
“Our Max aircraft account for roughly 40 flights a day and through a combination of spare aircraft and rebooking customers, we do not anticipate a significant operational impact as a result of this order,” United said in a statement posted on Twitter.
American Airlines said it has 24 aircraft affected by the grounding order.
“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,” American said in a statement. “Our teams will make every effort to rebook customers as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”
Southwest Airlines said its 34 MAX 8 aircraft account for less than 5 percent of its daily flights.
“While we remain confident in the MAX 8 after completing more than 88,000 flight hours accrued over 41,000 flights, we support the actions of the FAA and other regulatory agencies and governments across the globe that have asked for further review of the data,” Southwest said in a statement posted on its website.