MIAMI — The Federal Aviation Administration of the United States has grounded all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in the United States as a response to the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302.
The move comes after the FAA faced growing pressure to ground the aircraft after airlines and regulatory authorities around the world have voluntarily grounded the 737 MAX in the last 48 hours.
U.S President Donald Trump announced to the press that it would be indeed grounding the aircraft, even after the FAA said there was no basis to do so.
An official statement from the FAA is still expected at the time of writing this.
Boeing have commented on the grounding, saying that it is only temporary.
“Boeing continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. However, after consultation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. 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.”
The CEO Dennis Muilenburg also added words to this suspension.
“On behalf of the entire Boeing team, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in these two tragic accidents”.
“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution. Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be. There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”
Three airlines in the United State operate the Boeing 737 MAX. Southwest Airlines with 35 737 MAX 8s, American Airlines with 24 737 MAX 8s, and United Airlines with 14 of the larger 737 MAX 9s.
Operationally, the grounding of the 737 MAX will undoubtedly cause major disruptions for Southwest and American.
Both carriers are already facing aircraft shortages due to an ongoing dispute with aircraft mechanics at Southwest and an overhead storage bin issue on 14 737-800s being converted to Oasis at American.
While Southwest spreads its 737 MAXs across all of its focus cities, American has concentrated its entire 737 MAX fleet at its Miami hub. From Miami, the 737 MAX operates dozens of flights daily throughout the United States and to the Caribbean.
United, with only 14 737 MAX-9s, will be impacted but to a much
The grounding comes after several flight attendant unions, such as the Association of Flight Attendants, called for the FAA to temporarily ground the Boeing 737 MAX.
On Tuesday morning, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, who represents American Airlines’ flight attendants, called on American CEO Doug Parker to voluntarily ground the MAX.
United States President Donald Trump weighed in on the issue with a series of tweets:
Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2019
….needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2019
The President, a staunch supporter of Boeing, stopped short of grounding the aircraft with his executive powers.
Earlier, several prominent United States Senators such as Mitt Romney and Dianne Feinstein called for the MAX to be grounded:
Out of an abundance of caution for the flying public, the @FAANews should ground the 737 MAX 8 until we investigate the causes of recent crashes and ensure the plane’s airworthiness.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) March 12, 2019
#update Senator Diane Feinstein to FAA—ground the Max: “Until the cause of the crash is known and it’s clear that similar risks aren’t present in the domestic fleet, I believe all Boeing 737 Max 8 series aircraft operating in the United States should be temporarily grounded” pic.twitter.com/N6vBvPGsHO— Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) March 11, 2019
In the hours after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, many passengers have made attempts to avoid the 737 MAX at all costs.
While no carrier had publicly announced that it would waive change fees for passengers wishing to avoid the MAX, United appears to be allowing passengers to change flight at no extra charge on a case-by-case basis.
There are currently 59 operators worldwide of the 737MAX, with 371 in service.
The U.S suspension means that the 737MAX is now grounded worldwide and marks the end of the debate for now.
It started with the likes of EASA, the DGCA and many other regulatory bodies coming forward first, which has resulted in the likes of the FAA finally caving and grounding the aircraft.
American Airlines released its statement regarding this, apologising to customers for any disruption.
“Earlier today the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) informed us that based on new information, they are grounding the United States Boeing 737 MAX fleet out of an abundance of caution. American Airlines has 24 aircraft affected by this directive. 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 make every effort to rebook customers as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”
United Airlines has also chimed in on its take of the groundings.
Southwest Airlines was another carrier that posted an update regarding the grounding of MAX aircraft.
“Southwest Airlines is immediately complying with today’s FAA requirement for all U.S. airlines to ground the Boeing 737 MAX 8. As a result, we have removed our 34 MAX 8 aircraft from scheduled service. Southwest operates a fleet of more than 750 Boeing 737s, and the 34 MAX 8 aircraft account for less than five percent of our daily flights.”
Airways will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.