The FAA, relying on refined satellite tracking data and new physical evidence that more closely links two crashes of Boeing 737 MAX 8s, grounded Boeing’s newest narrowbody March 13, with immediate effect.

The move ends three days of cascading groundings after the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 (ET302) crash, and leaves the world’s MAX fleet grounded.

“On March 13, 2018, the investigation of the ET302 crash developed new information from the wreckage concerning the aircraft’s configuration just after takeoff that, taken together with newly refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft's flight path, indicates some similarities between the ET302 and [October 2018 Lion Air JT610] accidents that warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed,” FAA said in its emergency order.

FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell, speaking to reporters after the order was released, made it clear that FAA made the decision to ground the aircraft.

“The FAA is the safety authority for emergency airworthiness directives and orders,” he said. “FAA made the decision.”

US President Donald Trump announced the move in a White House briefing at 2:30 p.m. US ET March 13.

“I didn’t want to make this decision today,” Trump said. “I felt it was important, psychologically and in a lot of other ways. We just thought it was the right thing to do.”

Trump said he spoke to both Boeing and US-based MAX operators, and they “agreed it is the right thing to do.”

The stunning move brings an end to a cascading series of MAX groundings that swept the globe.

Earlier March 13, Canadian officials, citing the same satellite data the US had, announced MAX flight bans. Copa Airlines, another grounding holdout, announced its intention to ground its aircraft just before the US announcement.

In a statement, Boeing said it has full confidence in the MAX, but concurred with the move.

“After consultation with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US 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. Boeing makes this recommendation and supports the decision by the FAA.”

Video statement on White House Twitter page: https://twitter.com/whitehouse

 

Sean Broderick, sean.broderick@informa.com