President Donald J. Trump, on Wednesday afternoon, announced that he was grounding all U.S. Boeing 737MAX planes because of the two fatal air crashes of the aircraft in other countries.
He said the no-fly decision will be in effect until the planes are safe to fly.
“The safety of American people, of all people, is our paramount concern,” he told reporters.
Planes still airborne when the announcement was made were ordered to land at their destinations and remain grounded.
Speaking with reporters on a conference call, acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell said the grounding of the 737 MAX 8 and 9 came in light of new information, including from the flight data recorder and voice recorder.
“Since this accident occurred, we were resolute that we would not take action until we had data,” Elwell said. “That data coalesced today.”
Trump described the airliner issue as “a terrible, terrible thing” and defended the jet’s manufacturer, which he has maintained close ties to over the course of his presidency.
“Boeing is an incredible company,” he said. “They are working very hard right now.”
Trump has touted Boeing sales across the globe — including two weeks ago in Vietnam — and has cultivated close relationships with the company’s executives.
The company has spent millions over the past years lobbying decision-makers in Washington.
The president spoke by phone Wednesday with CEO Dennis Muilenburg, ahead of his grounding announcement, which came during a session on drug trafficking.
A day earlier, Muilenburg assured Trump in a separate phone call the 737 MAX 8 was safe, despite the two recent crashes. Hours after that call, the FAA said it remained confident in the planes, even as governments across Europe and Asia grounded them.
Startling real-time flight tracking maps showed the 737 MAX planes flying over North America and nowhere else around the world.
Although Trump was not explicitly pushing for grounding the plane in the 24 hours before the announcement, when Canada grounded their planes the situation became untenable for the United States to hold out.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers had been agitating for the grounding of the airplane. Senators calling for a temporary halt to flying the planes included GOP members like Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz.
Sen. Roger Wicker, another Republican, announced that the Commerce Committee he chairs would hold a hearing on the matter.
The FAA has been headed by an acting administrator for more than a year and has been a focus of congressional and public scrutiny for its role in inspecting and ensuring the safety of Boeing airplanes.
The second crash occurred in Ethiopia on Sunday, March 10. The first was off Indonesia in October.
All the MAX planes are now grounded around the world.
President Trump made the right call to ground the U.S. planes.
If the planes were still flying, passengers would have the right to be warned that their flights would be aboard the 737 MAX jets and could decline to fly.
But flight crews would, in most cases, be told to fly or risk being laid off.
The grounding order will cause many flight cancellations and passenger re-bookings, but the planes will not be flying until safety can be assured.