US bans Boeing 737 MAX flights

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 14, 2019 11:54 hrs
Boeing 737 Max aircraft (Image Courtesy: Boeing)

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that his administration was grounding Boeing's 737 Max planes, reversing an earlier decision by authorities to keep the aircraft flying, in the wake of a deadly crash involving one of its jets in Ethiopia, which killed all 157 people on board.

Trump said from the White House on Wednesday that planes currently in the air would be ordered to land at their destination and remain grounded, and that airlines and pilots had been notified of the decision, CNN reported.

“The safety of the American people, of all people, is our paramount concern,” Trump was quoted by The New York Times as saying.

After over 40 countries had banned Boeing's 737 Max aircraft following the deadly March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash, there were calls in the US to follow suit.

But, the Federal Aviation Administration, the country's aviation regulator, stated that it did not see “no systemic performance issues” that would prompt the agency to stop the flights of the jet.

“Boeing is an incredible company. They are working very, very hard right now and hopefully they’ll very quickly come up with the answer, but until they do, the planes are grounded,” Trump said.

On Tuesday, Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg had met the US President and assured him that the Boeing jets were safe. The meeting came after Trump tweeted that "airplanes are far too complex to fly".

The US' move came hours after Canada said that the country had banned Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft from its airspace.

Canada's transport minister Marc Garneau said that the newly available satellite-tracking data showed similarities between the crash in Ethiopia and another similar accident in Indonesia in October last year.

"The satellite tracing data showing the vertical path of the Ethiopian jet at take off and similar data from the Lion Air crash, had showed similar vertical fluctuations and oscillations," Garneau was quoted by The New York Times as saying.

Several countries including Australia, Singapore, UK, Ireland, France, India, Egypt and the Netherlands have also disallowed the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from operation in its airspace. A host of carriers like Jet Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Aeromexico, and Turkish Airlines have also grounded their fleets containing the said aircraft, citing customer safety.

An aircraft of the same make was also involved in the Lion Airlines plane crash in the Java Sea near Jakarta, Indonesia last year. Here too, the aircraft crashed a few minutes after taking off, claiming the lives of all 189 people on board.

The groundings of Boeing 737 MAX flights after the Ethiopian Airlines said that one of two pilots on the ill-fated flight number 302 had reported “flight-control problems” to air traffic controllers minutes after the plane crashed after taking off from Addis Ababa.

The pilot told the controllers that he wanted to turn back to the Addis Ababa airport, which he was cleared to do so, three minutes before contact was lost with the cockpit, a spokesperson for the Ethiopian Airlines said.