TORONTO — The investigation into the deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jetliner continues to evolve, with the airline's CEO telling CNN that the pilots on the flight had informed air traffic control they were having flight control problems before going down.
This comes as Canada joined a growing list of countries and airlines Wednesday that are grounding the Renton-made Boeing 737 Max 8 over safety concerns. The plane was involved in two crashes now only four months apart.
The plane crashed in Ethiopia this past Sunday shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board. The brand-new plane was bound for Nairobi, Kenya.
Five months earlier, a Boeing 737 Max 8 plunged into the ocean off Indonesia, killing 189 people -- that Lion Air Jet also crashed right after takeoff.
Late Monday, Boeing said it would release a 737 safety upgrade in the next few weeks and federal regulators have mandated "design changes" for the jet.
Several U.S. senators are demanding more be done and want the Federal Aviation Administration to ground the planes. In a tweet Tuesday, U.S Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, called for the plane to be taken out of service.
On Tuesday, bipartisan pressure grew on the FAA to follow regulators around the world and ground the planes.
"These planes are accidents waiting to happen," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut).
"It makes sense to ground an aircraft that has been involved in two very tragic accidents in only 6 months," said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
In both Indonesia and Ethiopia, the new planes nosedived within 15 minutes of takeoff.
"Even if it is traced to something else, the fact that you had these similarities is very disturbing," said aviation industry consultant Scott Hamilton.
China, Britain, Australia, Singapore and the entire European Union are among the places that have grounded the planes or banned them from their airspace.
Hamilton said the FAA has been slow to react.
"It's a government bureaucracy. Unfortunately the FAA has a well-deserved reputation for being slow on safety matters and sometimes being called a tombstone agency, meaning that sometimes it doesn't act until there's a crash on U.S. soil," Hamilton said.
Among U.S. airlines, Southwest has 34 737 MAX 8's, American has 24, and United has 14 of the longer MAX 9's.
In a new statement Tuesday, the FAA wrote, "thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft."
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KIRO 7 was at SeaTac Airport Tuesday morning as people checked in at the Southwest Airlines desk for early-morning flights.
Nicole Alvarez was flying to Denver on the 737 Max 8 and checked in with her two children Tuesday morning. She also had concerns about taking the Boeing-manufactured jet.
Alvarez wasn’t sure what if anything she could do about it. “It’s always going to concern me because I have children, unfortunately, we don’t have control over those things, so we leave it to higher hands and hope we get there safely,” she said.
Monica James, who was waiting to board her American flight Tuesday morning, expressed concern over the 737 still being in service. “... I don’t know how much it is affecting American Airlines and the fact that we are flying on them, and we’re not sure they’re safe," she said.
The United Kingdom and Norway have grounded the 737 following Sunday’s deadly plane crash.
In the United States, several airlines said they will continue to fly their 737 Max 8 planes despite growing pressure on the FAA from lawmakers to ground the planes until there is a complete investigation, CBS News reported.
Boeing maintains that safety is its No. 1 priority and sent out this statement:
“Safety is Boeing's number one priority and we have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. We understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets. We'll continue to engage with them to ensure they have the information needed to have confidence in operating their fleets. The United States Federal Aviation Administration is not mandating any further action at this time, and based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”
President Donald Trump tweeted out:
“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 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!”
Those mandated design changes, which include software updates to the new Renton-built jets are expected as soon as April, the FAA said.
Cox Media Group