FAA grounds 737 Max jets based on new data

  • A worker walks up steps to the right of an avionics truck parked next to a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane being built for TUI Group at Boeing Co.'s Renton Assembly Plant Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Renton, Wash. President Donald Trump says the U.S. is issuing an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft in the wake of a crash of an Ethiopian Airliner. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren

  • People work in the flight deck of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane being built for TUI Group parked next to another MAX 8 also designated for TUI at Boeing Co.'s Renton Assembly Plant Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Renton, Wash. President Donald Trump says the U.S. is issuing an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft in the wake of a crash of an Ethiopian Airliner. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren

  • Relatives react at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Wednesday, March 13, 2019. The black box from the Boeing jet that crashed will be sent overseas for analysis but no country has been chosen yet, an Ethiopian Airlines spokesman said Wednesday, as much of the world grounded or barred the plane model and grieving families arrived at the disaster site.... Mulugeta Ayene

  • A grieving relative who lost his wife in the crash is helped by a member of security forces and others at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Much of the world, including the entire European Union, has grounded the Boeing jetliner involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash or banned it from their airspace, leaving... Mulugeta Ayene

  • Wreaths and floral installations stand next to piles of wreckage at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Much of the world, including the entire European Union, has grounded the Boeing jetliner involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash or banned it from their airspace, leaving the United States as one of the few... Mulugeta Ayene

  • Flowers are left at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 plane crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Wednesday, March 13, 2019. The black box from the Boeing jet that crashed will be sent overseas for analysis but no country has been chosen yet, an Ethiopian Airlines spokesman said Wednesday, as much of the world grounded or barred the plane model and grieving families arrived at the disaster... Mulugeta Ayene

  • Workers walk past flowers laid at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Much of the world, including the entire European Union, has grounded the Boeing jetliner involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash or banned it from their airspace, leaving the United States as one of the few remaining operators of the plane... Mulugeta Ayene

  • Workers erect floral installations at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Much of the world, including the entire European Union, has grounded the Boeing jetliner involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash or banned it from their airspace, leaving the United States as one of the few remaining operators of the plane... Mulugeta Ayene

  • Wreaths and floral installations are placed near wreckage at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 plane crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Much of the world, including the entire European Union, has grounded the Boeing jetliner involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash or banned it from their airspace, leaving the United States as one of the few... Mulugeta Ayene

  • Chinese relatives of victims who died in the crash visit and grieve at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Much of the world, including the entire European Union, has grounded the Boeing jetliner involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash or banned it from their airspace, leaving the United States as one of the few... Mulugeta Ayene

  • Chinese relatives of victims who died in the crash visit and grieve at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Much of the world, including the entire European Union, has grounded the Boeing jetliner involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash or banned it from their airspace, leaving the United States as one of the few... Mulugeta Ayene

  • A grieving relative is held back by others at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Much of the world, including the entire European Union, has grounded the Boeing jetliner involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash or banned it from their airspace, leaving the United States as one of the few remaining operators of... Mulugeta Ayene

  • An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max aircraft arriving from Toronto prepares to land at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, British Columbia on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau says "all options are on the table" with regard to the country's fleet of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft but says the government currently has no plans to order the grounding of the plane. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP) DARRYL DYCK

  • Officials from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) pray next to an offering of fruit, bread rolls, and a plastic container of Ethiopian Injera, a fermented sourdough flatbread, placed next to incense sticks, at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Ethiopian Airlines had issued no new updates on the... Mulugeta Ayene

  • An offering of fruit, bread rolls, and a plastic container of Ethiopian Injera, a fermented sourdough flatbread, sit next to incense sticks, placed by officials from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) as they prayed at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Tuesday, March 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene) Mulugeta Ayene

  • Investigators from Israel examine wreckage at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Ethiopian Airlines had issued no new updates on the crash as of late afternoon Tuesday as families around the world waited for answers, while a global team of investigators began picking through the rural crash site. (AP... Mulugeta Ayene

  • Foreign investigators examine wreckage at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Ethiopian Airlines had issued no new updates on the crash as of late afternoon Tuesday as families around the world waited for answers, while a global team of investigators began picking through the rural crash site. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene) Mulugeta Ayene

  • In this photo taken Monday, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane being built for Air Canada sits parked at Boeing Co.'s Renton Assembly Plant in Renton, Wash. AP PHOTO

  • In this photo taken Monday, March 11, 2019, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane being built for TUI Group sits parked at Boeing Co.'s Renton Assembly Plant in Renton, Wash. Britain, France and Germany on Tuesday joined a rapidly growing number of countries grounding the new Boeing plane involved in the Ethiopian Airlines disaster or turning it back from their airspace, while investigators in Ethiopia looked for parallels with a similar crash just five months ago. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren

  • A worker stands on a platform near a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane being built for TUI Group at Boeing Co.'s Renton Assembly Plant Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Renton, Wash. President Donald Trump says the U.S. is issuing an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft in the wake of a crash of an Ethiopian Airliner. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren

  • Workers walk past a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane being built for TUI Group at Boeing Co.'s Renton Assembly Plant Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Renton, Wash. President Donald Trump says the U.S. is issuing an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft in the wake of a crash of an Ethiopian Airliner. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren

  • A worker walks past an avionics truck parked next to a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane being built for TUI Group at Boeing Co.'s Renton Assembly Plant Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Renton, Wash. President Donald Trump says the U.S. is issuing an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft in the wake of a crash of an Ethiopian Airliner. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren

  • A flock of birds flies past a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane being built for TUI Group at Boeing Co.'s Renton Assembly Plant Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Renton, Wash. President Donald Trump says the U.S. is issuing an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft in the wake of a crash of an Ethiopian Airliner. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren

  • Workers walk down stairs from a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane being built for American Airlines at Boeing Co.'s Renton assembly plant, Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Renton, Wash. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. is issuing an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft in the wake of the crash of an Ethiopian Airliner. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren

Published: 3/13/2019 9:59:59 PM

WASHINGTON — As country after country grounded Boeing’s 737 Max jets after a deadly crash Sunday in Ethiopia, U.S. air safety regulators remained resolute in their refusal to do so — until Wednesday.

That’s when the Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order keeping the planes on the tarmac. The agency said what made the difference was new, enhanced satellite tracking data and physical evidence on the ground that linked the Ethiopian jet’s movements to those of an Indonesian Lion Air flight that plunged into the Java Sea in October and killed 189 people.

“That evidence aligns the Ethiopian flight closer to Lion Air, what we know happened to Lion Air,” said Daniel Elwell, acting FAA administrator.

Officials at Lion Air have said sensors on their plane produced erroneous information on its last four flights, triggering an automatic nose-down command that the pilots were unable to overcome on its final voyage.

The FAA was under intense pressure to ground the planes and resisted even after Canada on Wednesday joined more than 40 countries, including the European Union and China, in barring the Max from the air, leaving the U.S. almost alone.

The agency, which prides itself on making data-driven decisions, had maintained there was nothing to show the Boeing jets were unsafe, and flights continued.

But President Donald Trump, who announced the grounding, was briefed Wednesday on new developments by Elwell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and they determined the planes should be grounded, the White House said. Trump spoke afterward with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg and Boeing signed on.

“At the end of the day, it is a decision that has the full support of the secretary, the president and the FAA as an agency,” Elwell said.

While early satellite tracking data showed similarities between the Ethiopian jet’s flight path and Lion Air, Elwell said the FAA was skeptical of the low-resolution images. The data showed movements that weren’t consistent with how airplanes fly, Elwell said.

On Wednesday, global air traffic surveillance company Aireon, Boeing and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board were able to enhance the initial data and make it more precise “to create a description of the flight that made it similar enough to Lion Air,” Elwell said.

He wouldn’t detail the evidence found on the ground, saying the FAA is a party to the ongoing investigation.

The U.S. also grounded a larger version of the plane, the Max 9.

The Ethiopian plane’s flight data and voice recorders were to be sent to France Wednesday night for analysis, Elwell said. Some aviation experts have warned that finding answers in that crash, which killed 157 people, could take months.

Airlines, mainly Southwest, American and United, should be able to swap out planes pretty quickly, and passengers shouldn’t be terribly inconvenienced, said Paul Hudson, president of flyersrights.org, which represents passengers. The Max, he said, makes up only a small percentage of the U.S. passenger jet fleet, he said.

“I think any disruptions will be very minor,” he said.

Sharon Barnes, a passenger at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, said she agreed with grounding the planes. “I think it was the right decision given that the rest of the world is doing the same thing, and it’s a prudent thing to be doing until we know more about what’s going on,” she said.

Michael Fortman, picking up wife at the Seattle airport, wondered why the planes could pass all tests to be flying, yet they now have been grounded.

“Did it really go through all the testing or not, or just stuff afterward that they’re finding out about the plane?”Fortman asked.

Boeing issued a statement saying it supported the FAA’s decision even though it “continues to have full confidence” in the planes’ safety.

The company also said it had recommended the suspension of the Max fleet after consultations with the government.

The groundings will have a far-reaching financial impact on Boeing, at least in the short term, said John Cox, a veteran pilot and CEO of Safety Operating Systems.

In addition to those that have already been grounded, there are more than 4,600 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes on backlog that are not yet delivered to airlines.

“There are delivery dates that aren’t being met, there’s usage of the aircraft that’s not being met, and all the supply chain things that Boeing so carefully crafted,” Cox said.

Even so, Boeing will recover, because planes typically fly for up to 40 years, and any needed fix will be made quickly, he said.

Shares in Chicago-based Boeing ended up $1.73 or about 0.5 percent, at $377.14 Wednesday after they lost more than 11 percent in the first two days this week. The stock is still up 17 percent for the year.

In making the decision to ground the Max 8s in Canada, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said a comparison of vertical fluctuations found a “similar profile” between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash. Garneau, a former astronaut who flew in the space shuttle, emphasized that the data is not conclusive but crossed a threshold that prompted Canada to bar the Max 8.

“This is not the proof that it is the same root problem,” he added. “It could be something else.”

The growing number of countries joining the ban put the FAA in a difficult position, said Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the NTSB who is now an aviation consultant. He said the FAA, which certified the 737 Max as airworthy and has been the lead regulatory body for the airplane.

Goelz said Trump likely was feeling pressure from Congress and the public to step in. “There’s probably nobody in the administration who’s got more of a sensitive ear to cable television,” he said.

After Trump’s announcement, American Airlines said its “teams will make every effort to rebook customers as quickly as possible.”

United Airlines, which grounded its 14 Max planes, said the aircraft account for roughly 40 flights per day. Through a combination of spare aircraft and rebooking customers, the airline did not anticipate a significant operational impact.

Southwest Airlines said it immediately complied with the order and removed its 34 Max 8 from scheduled service. The airline said the Max 8 planes account for less than 5 percent of the airline’s daily flights, adding that it remains confident in the airliner after completing more than 88,000 flight hours over 41,000 flights, but that it supports the FAA’s decision.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said its pilots had received special training on how to deal with the Max’s anti-stall software that could point the nose down.

“In addition to the basic trainings given for 737 aircraft types, an additional training was given for the Max version,” Tewolde told state news reporters. “After the Lion Air crash, questions were raised, so Boeing sent further instructions that it said pilots should know.”

Tewolde said he is confident the “investigation will reveal that the crash is not related to Ethiopian Airlines’ safety record.”

___

Krisher reported from Detroit, while Gillies reported from Toronto. AP video journalist Manuel Valdes and AP writers Elias Meseret and Yidnek Kirubel in Hejere, Ethiopia, and Cathy Bussewitz and Alexandra Olson in New York contributed to this story.




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