Boeing 737 Max Flights Banned by U.S. After Other Countries Ground Planes

Ian Austen and Selam Gebrekidan, reporting for The New York Times:

President Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States was grounding Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, reversing an earlier decision by American regulators to keep the jets flying after a second deadly crash in Ethiopia.

The order came hours after Canada’s transport minister said that newly available satellite-tracking data suggested similarities between the crash in Ethiopia and another accident last October. In a statement released after Mr. Trump’s announcement, the F.A.A. also cited “newly refined satellite data” as supporting the decision to ground the jets. […]

The accidents have put Boeing on the defensive. The 737 Max is Boeing’s best-selling jet ever and expected to be a major driver of profit with around 5,000 of the planes on order. Its shares have fallen about 13 percent this week.

I’m not sure how to bet on how this is going to turn out. My gut feeling until today has been that these two crashes were flukes, and that the similarities between them were just a very unfortunate coincidence. Trump rage-tweeting about the complexity of newer aircraft seemingly put the FAA into a position where they had to ground them, though. And I can definitely see the argument that an overabundance of caution is called for.

Update: After reading about multiple similar complaints filed by pilots about the 737 Max — specifically about problems with the planes going nose down shortly after takeoff — I’m now convinced grounding them pending investigation is the right move, and now I’m wondering why it took the FAA so long to do so.

I also wonder what this means for non-“Max” Boeing 737s — how many air travelers will be spooked just because they sport the 737 name?

Wednesday, 13 March 2019