The United States grounded Boeing Co’s money-spinning 737 MAX aircraft on Wednesday over safety fears after an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash that killed 157 people, leaving the world’s largest planemaker facing its worst crisis in years.
The U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) cited new satellite data and evidence from the scene of
Sunday’s crash near Addis Ababa for its decision to join Europe, China and
other nations in suspending 737 MAX flights.
The crash was the second disaster
involving the 737 MAX, the world’s most-sold modern passenger aircraft, in less
than five months.
The new information from the
wreckage in Ethiopia and newly refined data about the plane’s flight path
indicated some similarities between the two disasters “that warrant further
investigation of the possibility of a shared cause,” the FAA said in a
The acting administrator of the
FAA, Daniel Elwell, said he did not know how long the U.S. grounding of the
aircraft would last. A software fix for the 737 Max that Boeing has been
working on since a fatal crash last October in Indonesia will take months to
complete, Elwell told reporters.
The single-aisle 737 is central
to Boeing’s future in its battle with European rival Airbus SE. The new variant
of the 737, the fastest-selling jetliner in Boeing’s history, is viewed as the
likely workhorse for global airlines for decades.
“The agency made this decision as
a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site
and analysed today,” the FAA said, shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump
announced the planes would be grounded.
It was the second time the FAA
has halted flights of a Boeing plane in six years. It grounded the 787
Dreamliner in 2013 because of problems with smoking batteries.
Boeing, which maintained that its
planes were safe to fly, said in a statement that it supported the latest FAA
“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.”
The crash involving a Boeing 737 MAX in Indonesia killed 189 people. Passengers have been spooked by the two disasters. U.S. travel website Kayak was making changes to let customers exclude specific aircraft types from searches, and booking sites were looking to reroute passengers.
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