Boeing 737 Max 8 airplanes are now grounded in the United States and the rest of the world over concerns the aircraft may be unsafe to fly after the deadly March 10 crash of Ethiopia Airlines flight 302, the second deadly crash involving that plane model in five months.
Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that the 737 Max 8 planes in U.S. airspace would be allowed to continue to their destinations and then be grounded until further notice. The decision to ground the planes reversed the position that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had taken just hours earlier, insisting there were “no systemic performance issues” with that model aircraft to justify grounding them.
Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed Sunday, killing all 157 onboard. The crash seemed similar in nature to Lion Air flight 610, a 737 Max 8 that crashed Oct. 29, killing 189, but investigators lacked hard data to draw solid parallels between the crashes.
The FAA changed its stance, however, after “newly refined satellite data” obtained Wednesday showed similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air flights. Earlier in the day, Canada’s transportation regulators announced it was grounding Boeing 737 Max 8 jets after receiving new data.
The United States trailed every other country except Japan in allowing the 737 Max 8 jets to fly. Aviation authorities in most other countries grounded the airplanes earlier in the week.
Concern among air travelers and airline crews in the U.S., however, continued to grow despite Boeing’s and the FAA’s assurances.
Canada’s transportation regulators said that satellite tracing data of the Ethiopian Airlines flight’s vertical path at takeoff showed similar “vertical fluctuations” and “oscillations” much like the Lion Air jet that crashed minutes after takeoff Oct. 29 from Jakarta, Indonesia.
Later, U.S. regulators said, “on March 13, 2019, the investigation of the [Ethiopian Airlines] crash developed new information from the wreckage concerning the aircraft’s configuration just after takeoff that, taken together with newly refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft’s flight path, indicates some similarities between the” Ethiopia and Indonesia crashes.
The U.S. decision to ground the Boeing planes also came after reports that the Ethiopian Airlines pilots reported “flight-control problems” and had requested clearance to return to Addis Ababa minutes before crashing.
Boeing on Wednesday announced its approval of the decision to ground the planes.
“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution,” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said, according to The New York Times. “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.”