US Grounds All Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft
The US FAA has bowed to pressure and ordered the temporary grounding of all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in the country, citing new evidence for its change of mind.
The emergency order applies to 737 MAX 8s and 9s operated by US carriers, or international airlines flying into the country, and comes only a day after the FAA said it had “no basis” to order a grounding.
“The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analysed today. This evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to FAA this morning, led to this decision.”
The FAA said the grounding will remain in effect pending further investigation, including examination of the aircraft’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders.
A Boeing statement said it supports the FAA’s action to temporarily ground the aircraft, but it “continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX.”
Boeing recommended the temporary suspension of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft “out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety. 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.”
As the pressure to ground the aircraft built up, Canada joined the growing list of countries grounding the aircraft. Canada's Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the decision came after a review of satellite data identified similarities between Sunday's Ethiopian Airlines crash and a Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October last year.
Canada's ban affects Air Canada, which operates 24 Boeing 737 MAX 8s, and WestJet which has 13 of the same type.
The FAA's order means the largest 737 MAX 8 operator Southwest Airlines, which has 34 in service, American Airlines with 24, and United which has 14 of the larger MAX 9s, will have to use older aircraft to temporarily replace the grounded planes.
Southwest said it has been in constant contact with the FAA and Boeing since the Ethiopian accident and “remains 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 – including information from the flight data recorder – related to the recent accident involving the MAX 8,” Southwest said.
American apologised to its customers for the inconvenience caused by the grounding and said it was working to rebook them onto alternative flights operated by different aircraft.
Data from the Ethiopian Airlines 737 flight data and cockpit voice recorders is due to be analysed by the French air accident investigation agency BEA over the next few days.