• President Trump orders Boeing 737 MAX 8, MAX 9 aircraft grounded after recent crash

    By: Ranji Sinha , Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    Update: Boeing said Thursday it is continuing to build 737 MAX planes in Renton at the rate of 52 per-month, but has paused delivering them because of the FAA grounding.

    That means the airfield could fill up rather quickly and, in a statement, the company acknowledged it was "assessing how the situation, including potential capacity constraints, will impact our production system."

    The FAA grounded the planes Wednesday following two similar crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

    On Thursday, investigators in Europe began analyzing the cockpit voice and data recorders from the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which killed 157 people.

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    President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that an emergency order of prohibition is being issued to ground all Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 flights, “effective immediately.”

    “Boeing is an incredible company,” the president said Wednesday. “They are working very, very hard right now and hopefully they’ll very quickly come up with the answer. But until they do, the planes are grounded.”

    Trump's announcement comes after Canada joined on Wednesday a growing list of countries and airlines that  grounded the Renton-made Boeing 737 MAX 8 over safety concerns. The plane was involved in two crashes now only four months apart. 

    On Wednesday, the FAA sent out the following statement: 

    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.

    Boeing also sent out the following statement on Wednesday: 

    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.

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    "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 statement Tuesday, the FAA wrote, "thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft."

    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.

    On Tuesday, Boeing sent out the following 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.”

    KIRO 7 will continue to update this story as more information becomes available. 

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