FAA Grounds Boeing MAX

Delayed decision ultimately grounds 74 U.S. airliners

Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 jets, of which there are 74 models currently functional in three United States airlines, have been grounded by order of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The questionably delayed order came Wednesday afternoon, over three days after fatal safety flaws were found on a 737 MAX 8 jet that crashed in Ethiopia on Sunday, killing all 157 passengers and crew. Some of what the FAA—along with a technical team from Boeing and the consensus of international airline administrations—discovered during the interim period were direct similarities to a flight that crashed in Indonesia last October. Both flights crashed within minutes of takeoff, primarily due to unstable vertical speed during each plane’s ascent.

Both Boeing’s MAX 8 and MAX 9 models were grounded by the FAA’s eventual order, which took effect immediately at 3:00 PM Wednesday. This subtracts 34 Southwest Airlines jets, along with 24 from American and 16 from United, from the country’s commercial fleet. The full statement can be seen below:

“The FAA is ordering the temporary grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft (PDF) operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory. 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 FAA this morning, led to this decision.

The grounding will remain in effect pending further investigation, including examination of information from the aircraft’s flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders. An FAA team is in Ethiopia assisting the NTSB as parties to the investigation of the Flight 302 accident. The agency will continue to investigate.”

For Boeing, the blow is tantamount and emotional. Eight Americans were onboard Ethiopian Airlines’ Flight 302, many of them headed to a United Nations environmental conference in Nairobi, Kenya, from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Over the past 72 hours, largely unanimous public outcry urged the United States to act, until it ultimately became the third-to-last country with any MAX models to officially ground them. The FAA holdout involved interests from Boeing, which has suffered financially due to the model being one of its most profitable. The company’s stock has fallen sharply—as much as 11 points—since the Ethiopia Airlines crash. It also has 371 MAX models in its global fleet. Boeing responded cordially Wednesday with the following statement:

“Boeing continues to have 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. 

“On behalf of the entire Boeing team, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in these two tragic accidents,” said Dennis Muilenburg, president, CEO, Chairman of The Boeing Company.

“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution. Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be. There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”

Boeing makes this recommendation and supports the decision by the FAA.”


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