President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that the FAA was immediately grounding all Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft in the U.S. until further notice. The decision from the White House followed mounting pressure for action after many countries around the world grounded their Boeings following last Sunday’s crash of a Max 8 in Ethiopia. Sunday’s accident was the second loss of a 737 Max 8 in the past five months. Yesterday’s grounding affects all 371 of Boeing’s global fleet of 737 Max 8 & 9 aircraft.
The President said the grounding action was taken following the uncovering of new evidence, “from the [accident] site and from other locations and through a couple of other complaints." Details of the fresh evidence said it was satellite-based and displayed a flight path similar to that of the Indonesian aircraft. Trump acknowledged the grounding decision, "didn't have to be made" but was for reasons including "psychologically and a lot of other ways." Consumers in many parts of the world have over the past few days expressed concerns for their safety should they choose to fly aboard a Max 8 aircraft.
Until yesterday, both Boeing and the FAA repeatedly said no action would or should be taken unless some new evidence appeared. But on Wednesday Boeing suddenly performed an about-face just prior to the President’s statement. “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.”
In less hectic times grounding decisions would follow months, if not years of painstaking research, often conducted by numerous global safety organizations. Yesterday’s decision surprised many because it came from the President and not the FAA.
The grounding decision was not universally supported, however. Flight Safety Foundation’s president and CEO Dr. Hassan Shahidi said, “This globally haphazard approach to an important airworthiness issue was most unfortunate, but we understand the need to reassure the public. We continue to believe, however, that global aviation safety is best served by timely, harmonized decisions based on facts and evidence, not conjecture, politics or media pressure. Moving forward, we must allow aviation safety professionals – investigators, regulators, engineers and pilots – to calmly and objectively analyze the data, collaborate and implement permanent corrective fixes to ensure a tragedy like this can never happen again.”
To further the ongoing investigation, Ethiopian sources said the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from the most recent accident were being sent to France for analysis but made no specific mention of discovering anything unusual. No date has been mentioned for when airlines around the world will again be able to operate these relatively new aircraft.