By RICHARD LARDNER and TOM KRISHER, Associated Press
The U.S. is issuing an emergency order Wednesday grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft "effective immediately," in the wake of the crash of an Ethiopian Airliner that killed 157 people, President Donald Trump said.
Many nations had already barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from its airspace, but until Trump's announcement, the Federal Aviation Administration had said that it didn't have any data to show the jets are unsafe. Trump cited "new information" that had come to light in the ongoing investigation into incident. He did not elaborate.
"All of those planes are grounded, effective immediately," Trump said during a scheduled briefing on border security.
Trump said any airplane currently in the air will go to its destination and then be grounded. He added all airlines and affected pilots had been notified.
Trump said the safety of the American people is of "paramount concern."
In a statement, the FAA said it is ordering the "temporary grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft" and explained its decision came as a result of data gathering and "new evidence collected at the site and analyzed" Wednesday.
In its emergency order, the FAA further revealed that new evidence shows the possibility of a "shared cause" for the deadly Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.
Trump said the decision to ground the aircraft "didn't have to be made, but we thought it was the right decision."
The president insisted that the announcement was coordinated with aviation officials in Canada, U.S. carriers and aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
"Boeing is an incredible company," Trump said. "They are working very, very hard right now and hopefully they'll quickly come up with an answer."
Boeing said it "continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX" in a statement on Twitter. "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 feet of 371 737 MAX aircraft."
American Airlines, one of two carriers in the U.S. that fly the MAX 8, issued a statement to its customers.
"We appreciate the FAA’s partnership, and will continue to work closely with them, the Department of Transportation, National Transportation Safety Board and other regulatory authorities, as well as our aircraft and engine manufacturers. Our teams will be working to rebook customers as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience," it read.
Southwest is the only other carrier in the U.S that flies the Boeing 737 MAX 8.
Canada also closed its airspace to Boeing 737 MAX 8 earlier today. Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said a comparison of vertical fluctuations found a "similar profile" to the Lion Air crash that killed 187 people in October. 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.
He said the new information indicated that the Ethiopian Airliner jet's automatic system kicked in to force the nose of the aircraft down after computer software determined it was too high. He said that in the case of the Lion Air crash off Indonesia, the pilot fought against computer software that wanted to drop the nose of the plane.
"So, if we look at the profile, there are vertical fluctuations, in the vertical profile of the aircraft and there were similarities in what we saw," Garneau said. "But I would repeat once again. This is not the proof that is the same root problem. It could be something else."
Canada lost 18 of its citizens in Sunday's crash, the second highest number after Kenya. A Canadian family of six were among the dead.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian Airlines said Wednesday that flight recorders from the jet that crashed will be sent to Europe for analysis, but it was unclear where. Some aviation experts have warned that finding answers in the crash could take months.
While aviation experts warn against drawing conclusions until more information emerges from the investigation, more than 40 countries — including the entire European Union — have suspended flights by the Max 8 or barred it from their airspace. China also ordered its airlines to ground the planes — they had 96 Max 8 jets in service, more than one-fourth of the approximately 370 Max jets in circulation.
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