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March 13, 2019

President Donald Trump Says U.S. Has Grounded Boeing 737 Max 8

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that his administration had grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 planes involved in two catastrophic crashes, hours after the U.S. had become the last nation in the world to do so.

"Those planes are grounded effective immediately," Trump told reporters at the White House. "The safety of the American people, of all people, is our paramount concern."

The U.S. was the last holdout on grounding the aircraft after Canada on Wednesday joined a growing list of nations that included China, Britain, France and Germany to make the call following an Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday that killed 157 people.

Trump, who said he felt the decision was important "psychologically," said his administration made the decision after receiving "new information and physical evidence" from the site of the Ethiopian Airlines crash and from other locations.

Trump, who said the decision applied to the 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft, said he was confident Boeing will get to the bottom of the problem.

In a statement, Boeing said it "continues to have full confidence in the safety" of its airplanes, but agreed with the government's decision "out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety."

The Federal Aviation Administration had previously stood by the safety of the Boeing 737, saying it hadn't found any issues with the jetliner to merit a grounding order.

The fleet began flying two years ago and already includes 74 domestic planes among almost 400 worldwide. Airlines have ordered more than 4,500 of the jetliners, the newest version of the 737 and best-selling airliner ever.

Mike Slack, a pilot and lawyer who has represented passengers and family members in crash cases, said Trump had little choice. Allow the planes to fly would have gambled jobs – and American lives – and raised questions for the administration and Boeing.

“Is this about protecting Boeing competitively against Airbus, its primary competitor? And why would Boeing’s CEO be calling the president of the United States?” said Slack, a former NASA engineer. “That’s not good form when the background story is already that the FAA is not acting.”

Sunday's crash in Ethiopia followed an Oct. 29, 2018, crash of Lion Air Flight 610, in which 189 passengers and crew died when it plunged into the Java Sea outside Indonesia. Both flights crashed after experiencing drastic speed fluctuations during ascent, with their pilots trying to return to ground after takeoff.

The FAA previously grounded the Boeing 787 in 2013 after fires were sparked by its battery system, one in flight and one on the ground. United Airlines was the only U.S. carrier flying the Dreamliner at the time. The FAA ban lasted more than three months and was lifted after Boeing made modifications to the battery systems.

In 1979, the FAA grounded the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 following a fatal American Airlines crash in Chicago. The flight from Chicago to Los Angeles crashed after takeoff, killing 271 passengers and crew and two people on the ground.

Copyright 2019 Gannett. All rights reserved. From https://www.usatoday.com.
By John Fritze and David Jackson, USA TODAY. Contributing: Donovan Slack, Dawn Gilbertson.
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