Trump grounds Boe­ing planes

‘The safety of the Amer­i­can peo­ple and all peo­ple is our para­mount con­cern’

The Mercury News - - Front Page - By Noah Bier­man and James F. Peltz

Pres­i­dent Trump grounded Boe­ing’s 737 Max planes Wed­nes­day, fol­low­ing the lead of 51 other coun­tries that have or­dered an in­def­i­nite freeze on fly­ing the model in­volved in two calami­tous crashes.

“The safety of the Amer­i­can peo­ple and all peo­ple is our para­mount con­cern,” Trump said dur­ing a meet­ing at the White House.

“All of those planes are grounded, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately,” Trump said, a move that threat­ened to spark travel dis­rup­tions be­cause there are about 74 737 Max air­craft used by three U.S. car­ri­ers — South­west, Amer­i­can and United.

The or­der af­fects the Boe­ing 737 Max 8 and Max 9. Trump said any planes cur­rently in the air would be grounded upon com­ple­tion of their flights “un­til fur­ther no­tice.” He added, “Boe­ing is an in­cred­i­ble com­pany. They are work­ing very, very hard right now.”

Af­ter Trump’s an­nounce­ment, the FAA said it had made the de­ci­sion “as a re­sult of the data-gath­er­ing process and new ev­i­dence col­lected at the site and an­a­lyzed to­day,” re­fer­ring to the site of a Ethiopian Air­lines 737 Max crash af­ter take­off in Ethiopia on Sun­day that killed all 157 peo­ple aboard.

“The ground­ing will re­main in ef­fect pend­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” the FAA said.

The three U.S. air­lines all said they would im­me­di­ately com­ply with the or­der. South­west, with 34 of the af­fected planes, said cus­tomers who were booked on can­celed 737 Max flights could re-book. There will be no ad­di­tional fees or fare dif­fer­ences for trav­el­ers who re-book within 14 days of their orig­i­nal travel date be­tween their orig­i­nal des­ti­na­tions, South­west said.

Amer­i­can, with 24 planes af­fected, and

United with 16 also said they would work with cus­tomers to min­i­mize dis­rup­tions. United, not­ing that the 737 Max ac­counts for about only 40 of its flights daily, said it did not “an­tic­i­pate a sig­nif­i­cant op­er­a­tional im­pact as a re­sult of this or­der.”

Fligh­tradar24, a web­site that tracks air traf­fic, tweeted a map show­ing the 737 Max planes in the air at the time of Trump’s an­nounce­ment.

Avi­a­tion ob­servers have raised ques­tions about the Max ver­sion of the 737, which is the most-pro­duced air­craft in Boe­ing’s line of jet­lin­ers, with more than 5,000 on or­der world­wide.

The Air Line Pi­lots Assn. said it sup­ported the FAA de­ci­sion to ground the planes and called on “in­ves­tiga­tive au­thor­i­ties re­spon­si­ble to ex­pe­dite the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Ethiopian Air­lines Flight 302 and iden­tify any cor­rec­tive ac­tion if nec­es­sary in or­der to re­turn this air­craft to ser­vice.”

Trump’s de­ci­sion came af­ter he spoke on the phone Tues­day with Boe­ing Chief

Ex­ec­u­tive Den­nis Muilen­burg fol­low­ing the pres­i­dent’s tweet that air­planes were “be­com­ing far too com­plex to fly.” Boe­ing con­firmed that Muilen­burg told the pres­i­dent the 737 Max was safe but de­clined to elab­o­rate on the call.

Trump’s move came af­ter Canada joined much of the world in ground­ing Boe­ing

Co.’s 737 Max jet­liner Wed­nes­day, which had left the United States vir­tu­ally alone in al­low­ing con­tin­ued use of the hugely pop­u­lar twin-engine craft.

Avi­a­tion au­thor­i­ties in Europe, In­dia, China and else­where grounded the plane in the af­ter­math of the crash of the Ethiopian Air­lines jet and the In­done­sian

Lion Air dis­as­ter, in Oc­to­ber, both of which in­volved the 737 Max.

Cana­dian Trans­port Min­is­ter Marc Garneau told re­porters that Canada banned the plane from op­er­at­ing in the coun­try, or fly­ing over it, be­cause of in­con­clu­sive data sug­gest­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the crashes.

Boe­ing said Wed­nes­day it had “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.”

Be­fore Trump acted, the FAA had not grounded the air­craft, say­ing Tues­day the agency had found “no ba­sis” for tak­ing such ac­tion.

The FAA and Garneau’s agency work closely on most avi­a­tion mat­ters, but Garneau said, “We make our own de­ci­sions in Canada and oc­ca­sion­ally those de­ci­sions may be dif­fer­ent from our col­leagues south of the bor­der.”

“They’re aware of it and the rea­sons for it,” Garneau said of the FAA’s and Canada’s de­ci­sions, “and sim­i­larly they let us know when they have a dif­fer­ence of opin­ion.”

When asked what would

per­suade Canada to lift the ban, Garneau replied, “The smok­ing gun that will ex­plain what hap­pened with this par­tic­u­lar flight” in Ethiopia.

“We’ll find out, hope­fully, in the com­ing days how that air­craft be­haved” af­ter au­thor­i­ties re­view the doomed jet­liner’s flight record­ings, Garneau said.

Mean­while, the mount­ing con­cerns re­port­edly have prompted some air­lines to re­con­sider their 737 Max orders.

Kenya Air­ways is reeval­u­at­ing plans to buy the plane and might switch to the ri­val Air­bus A320 or up­grade to Boe­ing’s larger 787 Dream­liner, Bloomberg re­ported the car­rier’s chair­man, Michael Joseph, as say­ing.

In ad­di­tion, In­done­sia’s Lion Air is mov­ing to drop a $22-bil­lion or­der for the 737 in fa­vor of the Air­bus model, Bloomberg re­ported an uniden­ti­fied source as say­ing.

It was the crash of a Lion Air 737 Max in Oc­to­ber in In­done­sia, which killed 189 peo­ple, that first raised ques­tions about the air­craft, and an­a­lysts have fo­cused on soft­ware in the new jet­liner in­tended to stop the plane from stalling.


An Amer­i­can Air­lines Boe­ing 737 Max 8, on a flight from Mi­ami to New York City, lands at LaGuardia Air­port on Mon­day morn­ing.


Foren­sics in­ves­ti­ga­tors and re­cov­ery teams col­lect per­sonal ef­fects and other ma­te­ri­als from the crash site of Ethiopian Air­lines Flight ET 302on Tues­day in Bishoftu, Ethiopia.

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