Manufacturer Boeing has grounded its entire global fleet of Max planes in the wake of evidence from last weekend’s Ethiopian Airline tragedy.
Boeing said on Thursday morning (Australian time) that it would recommend to the US Federal Aviation Administration that its worldwide fleet of 371 Max aircraft be grounded “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,” company CEO Dennis Muilenburg said.
“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.”
— The Boeing Company (@Boeing) March 13, 2019
Boeing’s move followed the US and Canada joining a widening global ban on the 737 Max 8 aircraft after Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash, in which 157 people died.
President Donald Trump announced on Thursday morning (Australian time) that an emergency order would ground all Boeing 737 Maxes in the US, including “planes associated with that line”.
The decision follows an announcement by Canada that Maxes would be barred from its airspace in the light of new crash evidence.
Mr Trump said the US Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing were “in agreement with the action”.
“Pilots have been notified, airlines have been all notified. Airlines are agreeing with this. The safety of the American people and all people is our paramount concern,” Mr Trump said.
Canada’s transport minister, Marc Garneau, earlier said satellite data had drawn possible similarities between flight patterns of 24 of the Boeing planes in operation in Canada and Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302.
Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell said new data “added fidelity to the link between the Ethiopia crash and previous aircraft behaviour”, providing the “missing pieces that we did not have prior to today”.
Mr Elwell said the data aligned the Ethiopian flight data to last year’s Lion Air tragedy in Indonesia, which claimed 189 lives.
He declined to estimate how long the grounding would last, but he said he hoped to keep it “as short as possible”.
“My hope is that the FAA, the carriers, the manufacturer, that all parties will work very hard to make this grounding as short as possible so that these airplanes can get back up into the sky,” Mr Elwell said.
Mr Garneau said three commercial airlines operating the Boeing aircraft had been barred from landing or flying in Canada as a “precautionary measure”, following the advice of experts.
“This safety notice restricts commercial passenger flights from any operator of the Boeing 737 Max 8 or Max 9 variant aircraft, whether domestic or foreign, from arriving, departing or overflying Canadian air space,” he said.
The FAA earlier said its review of the Max 8 revealed “no systemic performance issues” in the model and as a result provided “no basis to order grounding the aircraft”.
“Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action,” Mr Elwell said.
“In the course of our urgent review of data on the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, if any issues affecting the continued airworthiness of the aircraft are identified, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”
A stream of other countries, including Australia, have banded together in grounding the planes.
They include Hong Kong, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Lebanon, the European Union, Britain, France, Germany, Singapore, Norwegian Air (NAS), and carriers in several Latin American countries.