President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that the FAA was ordering the immediate grounding of all Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft in the U.S.
Any plane that is currently in the air will be allowed to land, and then the planes will be grounded until further notice, he said in a surprise announcement on Wednesday afternoon.
Trump said he made the decision following conversations with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and acting FAA administrator Dan Elwell after ‘new information’ and ‘physical evidence’ emerged on tragic incidents involving the Max 8 aircraft.
‘They are all in agreement with the action,’ Trump announced from the White House. ‘Planes that are in the air will be grounded, if they’re the 737 Max, will be grounded upon landing at the destination.’
An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed Sunday, shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa. All 157 people on aircraft perished. A Lion Air flight on a 737 Max 8 crashed in October in Indonesia, taking the lives of its 189 passengers and crew, too.
“The safety of the American people, of all people, is our paramount concern,” Trump said, adding that the grounding would take effect as soon as the planes landed and would continue until further notice. “Pilots have been notified. Airlines have been all notified. Airlines are agreeing with this,” he said.
The crash in Ethiopia on Sunday, which killed all 157 people on board, was the second deadly crash of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane in just five months.
The president said the decision to ground the planes was made based on new evidence that had come to light.
“The FAA is prepared to make an announcement very shortly regarding the new information and physical evidence we’ve received from the site and from other locations and through a couple of other complaints,” he said. “We’ve had a very, very detailed group of people working on the 737 8 and the 737 9 new airplanes. We’re going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition to ground all flights of the 737 Max 8 and the 737 Max 9 and planes associated with that line.”
Shortly afterward, the FAA issued a statement reversing its earlier resistance to grounding the planes, saying “the agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today.
“This evidence, together with newly-refined satellite data available to the FAA this morning, led to this decision,” the FAA said. “The grounding will remain in effect pending further investigation, including examination of information from the aircraft’s flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.”
In an important caveat, Trump said the decision to ground the planes “didn’t have to be made” but was made for a number of reasons, he said, including “psychologically and a lot of other ways.”