The U.S. government, led by an executive order from President Donald Trump, has issued instructions that Boeing must ground all 737 Max aircraft operating inside the United States.
The ban comes days after a deadly crash of an Ethiopian Max 8 airliner killed 157 people, prompting many countries around the globe to issue their own grounding orders until the cause of the crash can be determined. A Max 8 jet crashed in Indonesia in October 2018, resulting in the deaths of 189 people.
“They are all in agreement with the action. Any plane currently in the air will go to its destination and thereafter be grounded until further notice,” Trump told White House reporters on Wednesday, March 13. To reach his decision, Trump reportedly coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration, various U.S. carriers, as well as Boeing itself.
“Boeing continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max,” the company said in a press release. “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.”
In its own statement, the FAA said that it made its decision “as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today.”
This is not the first time that the FAA has grounded all aircraft of a certain type following technical problems. In 2013, it ordered the Boeing 787 Dreamliners to be grounded as a result of lithium-ion battery malfunctions. However, it is an uncommon decision, and suggests that the “new evidence” referenced in the FAA’s statement could be significant.
Around 370 Boeing 737 Max jets have been in operation around the world. Of these, 74 are flown by U.S. airlines, including United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and American Airlines. In a statement, American Airlines — which has a fleet of 24 of the 737 Max planes — has said that its teams will “make every effort to rebook customers as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.” It would seem likely that United and Southwest will offer similar arrangements, if they’re not doing so already.