As country after country grounded Boeing’s 737 Max jets after a deadly crash Sunday in Ethiopia, US. air safety regulators remained resolute in their refusal to do so – until Wednesday.
That’s when the Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order keeping the planes on the tarmac. The agency said what made the difference was new, enhanced satellite tracking data and physical evidence on the ground that linked the Ethiopian jet’s movements to those of an Indonesian Lion Air flight that plunged into the Java Sea in October and killed 189 people. “That evidence aligns the Ethiopian flight closer to Lion Air, what we know happened to Lion Air,” said Daniel Elwell, acting FAA administrator.
Officials at Lion Air have said sensors on their plane produced erroneous information on its last four flights, triggering an automatic nose-down command that the pilots were unable to overcome on its final voyage. The FAA was under intense pressure to ground the planes and resisted even after Canada on Wednesday joined more than 40 countries, including the European Union and China, in barring the Max from the air, leaving the US almost alone.
The agency, which prides itself on making data-driven decisions, had maintained there was nothing to show the Boeing jets were unsafe, and flights continued. But President Donald Trump, who announced the grounding, was briefed Wednesday on new developments by Elwell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and they determined the planes should be grounded, the White House said. (AP)