U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the Federal Aviation Administration is grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 in the country.
Various groups, including pilots, flight attendants, and consumers, were united in demanding for the immediate suspension of the Boeing jets following a recent airplane crash in Ethiopia that left more than 150 people dead.
“The safety of the American people, of all people, is our paramount concern,” Pres. Trump said.
Earlier this week, Boeing lobbied the president against the grounding of its planes. However, the aircraft maker changed its position after the announcement and offered its support for the move.
“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution,” the company wrote in its statement. “Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be.”
Despite calls from the public to ground the Boeing 737 Max airplanes, the FAA remained resolute that its safety regulators found “no systemic performance issues” that would require such a move.
The agency later changed its stance after new evidence taken from satellite-tracking data revealed similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air disaster in Indonesia in October. Both involved 737 Max 8 airplanes.
“Since this accident occurred, we were resolute in our position that we would not take action until we had data to support taking action,” said Daniel K. Elwell, acting administrator of the FAA. “That data coalesced today, and we made the call.”
The FAA said the grounding of the Boeing jets will remain in effect pending further investigation. This includes looking into the crashed Ethiopian Airlines’ cockpit voice and flight data recorders.
Ethiopian Airlines reported that one of the pilots on board the Boeing 737 Max 8 told air traffic controllers that they were having “flight-control problems” moments after they took off.
They asked and was granted permission to turn the plane back and head to Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. Controllers lost contact with the flight crew several minutes later.
The report suggests that there might have been an issue either with the airplane’s handling or with the computerized flight-control system on board. No suggestions have been made regarding a possible terrorist involvement or any outside interference.
The Ethiopian Airlines airplane was only been active for a few months before the crash.
Investigators looking into the Lion Air disaster have raised the possibility that Boeing’s new anti-stalling system for its 737 Max jets might have contributed to the airplane’s crash last year. They said the automated program kept the airplane’s nose down, despite the pilots’ struggle to correct it.
Boeing said it sent out an emergency notice to airlines about the problem with the anti-stalling system. The company is expected to release a software patch to fix the issue.
The Boeing 737 Max is the best-selling jet in the company’s history. It is expected to drive huge profit for the aircraft maker, with over 4,500 units already ordered.
However, Boeing has taken a hit in the markets this week, with shares dropping by as much as 11 percent.