Our Pledge To You


US grounds Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 planes

Don’t jump to conclusions about what caused a Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 jetliner to crash Sunday after takeoff in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, killing all 157 on board. It’s best to wait until more facts are in. People were quick to compare the Ethiopian tragedy to the crash of a Lion Air jet on Oct. 29 in the Java Sea near Indonesia, killing 189. The parallels were apparent — the same new airplane model and pilots of both planes trying to return to their airports after experiencing unstable vertical speed soon after takeoff. But there were differences, too: Lion Air was criticized for not properly maintaining its plane or training its crew on anti-stall technology that apparently pushed the nose of the plane down, while the Ethiopian pilot was experienced and the airline, Africa’s largest in the number of destinations and annual passengers, is considered among that continent’s safest. Aviation experts said Monday it was unlikely an experienced pilot would have been unaware of the circumstances around the Indonesia crash and would have known what to do if the same thing happened to their aircraft. Two flight recorders found on Monday will tell us more. Meanwhile, China and Indonesia grounding all 737 of their Max 8 jets. Ethiopian Airlines is grounding its Max 8’s, and smaller airlines have grounded a handful of the jets elsewhere. On Wall Street, Chicago-based Boeing’s stock tumbled early on Monday. But Boeing said has no plans to pull the newest version of its most popular airliner from the skies, and airlines in the United States said they plan to continue flying them. Southwest Airlines said its 34 Max jets have safely flown 31,000 flights. Full, thorough investigations into airline crashes take a long time, sometimes years. The thoroughness is what gives airplane manufactures reliable information on what went wrong and what to do to make their planes safer. Such painstaking work by the National Transportation Safety Board over the years is one reason air travel has become so safe, along with stricter requirements for pilot training and rest. America’s only accidental death since 2009 occurred last April when a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737's fan blade shattered in flight and killed a passenger. Although a clearer picture is emerging of what when wrong in the Lion Air crash more than four months ago, that investigation is far from over, and the probe of the Ethiopian crash is just beginning. As Harro Ranter, founder of the Aviation Safety Network, which compiles information about accidents worldwide, told the Associated Press, “I do hope though that people will wait for the first results of the investigation instead of jumping to conclusions based on the very little facts that we know so far.” Robert A. Clifford, whose Chicago law office has been involved in lawsuits over many plane crashes around the world, said part of the problem is that the Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t moved quickly enough to deal with faulty sensors and control system components suspected to have caused the Lion Air crash. “How many more people have to be killed before this issue is resolved?” Clifford said. But former Continental Airlines CEO Gordon Bethune told CNBC the FAA should not ground the planes because up to 350 of them have been flying around the world for two years without incident. Bethune said a clearer picture of what went wrong should emerge quickly because the flight recorders have been found. The FAA said the Max remains airworthy. Passenger advocate groups say it’s difficult to choose a particular aircraft model when making flying plans because airlines might switch planes up until the last day or two before a flight. If a passenger chooses to cancel anyway, it’s unlikely that an airline will refund their ticket or honor a discount, and flight insurance probably won’t cover it, either, because it is a passenger decision.

An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8, on a flight from Miami to New York City, comes in for landing at LaGuardia Airport on Monday morning, March 11, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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.”

READ MORE: Expect disruptions at Chicago’s airports over 737 groundings: expert

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.


Witness: Rear of Ethiopian Airlines plane was smoking before impact
EDITORIAL: Identical Boeing planes crash. What’s to be done? Wait for the facts
More Boeings grounded amid global probe into Ethiopia crash