US President Donald Trump issued an executive order to ground the Boeing 737 MAX 8 following the latest deadly crash, as reports surfaced of American pilots who expressed concerns about the plane late last year.
Many nations in the world had already barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from its airspace in the wake of the crash of an Ethiopian Airliner that killed 157 people, but until now, the Federal Aviation Administration had been saying that it didn't have any data to show the jets are unsafe.
Trump said any plane currently in the air will go to its destination and then be grounded.
Trump said pilots and airlines have been notified. He said he was grounding the flights from both models - "effective immediately"
He said the safety of the American people is of "paramount concern."
Any plane that is currently in the air will be allowed to land and they will be grounded until further notice.
Trump said he made the decision following conversations with Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary, and the airline companies, he said, after new information emerged on the tragic crash.
American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines haven't grounded planes despite 40 countries opting not to fly the aircraft pending an investigation.
On Wednesday morning, 33 of the model were spotted on Flightradar24, most over the US.
In a statement, Boeing said the plane should be suspended "out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft's safety."
"We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution. Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be," Dennis Muilenburg, president of Boeing, said.
Boeing, the company said, makes this recommendation and supports the decision by the FAA.
Meanwhile, Canada joined much of the world in barring the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet from its airspace on Wednesday, saying satellite tracking data shows possible but unproven similarities between the Ethiopian Airliner crash and a previous crash involving the model five months ago.
Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said a comparison of vertical fluctuations found a "similar profile" to the Lion Air crash that killed 187 people in October.
Garneau, a former astronaut who flew in the space shuttle, emphasised that the data is not conclusive but crossed a threshold that prompted Canada to bar the Max 8.
He said the new information indicated that the Ethiopian Airliner jet's automatic system kicked in to force the nose of the aircraft down after computer software determined it was too high. He said that in the case of the Lion Air crash off Indonesia, the pilot fought against computer software that wanted to drop the nose of the plane.
"So, if we look at the profile, there are vertical fluctuations, in the vertical profile of the aircraft and there were similarities in what we saw," Garneau said. "But I would repeat once again. This is not the proof that is the same root problem. It could be something else."
Canada lost 18 of its citizens in Sunday's crash, the second highest number after Kenya. A Canadian family of six were among the dead.
'Don't sink, don't sink!'
The US and Canada grounding of the Boeing planes comes after documents show at least four pilots made reports following the October crash of a Lion Air flight in Indonesia shortly after takeoff, all complaining that the aircraft suddenly pitched downward, according to reports reviewed by AFP on a flight safety database, news.com.au reported.
The incidents seem to involve the flight stabilisation system designed to prevent the aircraft from stalling, the "MCAS," which was implicated in the fatal accident in the Lion Air crash that killed 189 people shortly after takeoff.
One pilot logged an incident in November 2018, just weeks after the Lion Air crash, saying the plane "pitched nose down" two to three seconds after engaging the autopilot following takeoff, according to the report on the Aviation Safety Reporting System, maintained by NASA.
"The captain immediately disconnected the autopilot and pitched into a climb," the report said. "The rest of the flight was uneventful."
The report said the flight crew reviewed the incident "at length … but can't think of any reason the aircraft would pitch nose-down so aggressively."
Another pilot on a flight in November said the crew discussed the concerns about the aircraft and "I mentioned I would engage the autopilot sooner than usual." But again once engaged, there was a quick automated warning of "DONT SINK DONT SINK!"
"I immediately disconnected the AP (autopilot) … and resumed climb," the officer said. But after review, "frankly neither of us could find an inappropriate set up error."
"With the concerns with the MAX 8 nose-down stuff, we both thought it appropriate to bring it to your attention."
The Lion Air accident had focused attention on Angle of Attack (AOA) sensors connected to the Aircraft Stabilization System (MCAS).
A malfunction of these tools may erroneously correct the path by pitching the aircraft down due to a mistaken assessment that the aircraft is in stall.
The Ethiopian Airlines disaster took place shortly after takeoff and the aircraft experienced irregular climbs and descents just after taking off.
"We're going to decline to comment on specific ASRS reports," an FAA spokeswoman said.
"We are not aware of any verified reports of MCAS issues in the US."
The ASRS is a voluntary system of reports that allows research to "lessen the likelihood of aviation accidents."
Countries that have banned Boeing Max planes
With the United States joining Canada in banning Boeing Max planes, here are the other countries that have grounded the aircraft.
A spokesman for Ethiopian Airlines says it grounded its remaining four Max 8 jets as an "extra safety precaution" while it investigates Sunday's deadly crash. The airline is awaiting the delivery of 25 more Max 8 jets.
China has 96 Max 8 jets in service, belonging to carriers such as Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines. The civil aviation authority directed the planes to be grounded indefinitely on Monday. It said the order was "taken in line with the management principle of zero tolerance for security risks."
There were eight Chinese citizens on the Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed shortly after taking off on Sunday. The authority said it will consult the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing before deciding when to lift the ban.
The European Aviation Safety Agency has issued a directive grounding all Boeing 737-8 "MAX" and 737-9 model aircraft following two recent accidents.
EASA said in its emergency airworthiness directive Tuesday that "at this early stage" of the most recent investigation, "it cannot be excluded that similar causes may have contributed to both events."
"Based on all available information, EASA considers that further actions may be necessary to ensure the continued airworthiness of the two affected models."
It says companies may make one noncommercial flight to return their planes to a location where they can be inspected. The grounding applies to all European Union airspace.
Brazil's Gol Airlines has suspended the use of seven Max 8 jets. The airline said it is following the investigation closely and hopes to return the aircraft to use as soon as possible. Gol said it has made nearly 3,000 flights with the Max 8, which went into service last June, with "total security and efficiency."
Singapore has temporarily banned Max 8 jets — and other models in the Max range — from entering and leaving the country. The civil aviation authority said it was "closely monitoring the situation" and the ban will be "reviewed as relevant safety information becomes available." SilkAir, a regional carrier owned by Singapore Airlines, has six Max 8 jets. It said the ban "will have an impact on some of the airline's flight schedules."
The UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority said its ban on the aircraft in its airspace was "a precautionary measure." The 737 MAX is the workhorse of the Dubai government-owned budget carrier FlyDubai. It operates 11 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 2 MAX 9 jetliners. Its total fleet is around 60 aircraft, including other models of the 737.
Vietnam is banning Boeing 737 Max planes from flying into its airspace.
Dinh Viet Thang, director of Vietnam's civil aviation authority, said Wednesday that airlines flying those models of planes will have to change the aircraft for safety purposes. The ban lasts until further notice.
None of Vietnam's four airlines uses the Max model planes in their fleets, but Korea's Eastar Jet, Thai Lion Air and Malaysia's Malindor Air fly those planes to Vietnamese destinations.
India says it is immediately grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 planes after Sunday's deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash. A statement late Tuesday says the planes "will be grounded till appropriate modifications and safety measures are undertaken to ensure their safe operations."
The statement does not say how many planes are affected.
Australia has announced a temporary ban on flights by Boeing 737 Max aircraft, although none of its airlines currently operate them. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority said Tuesday that the ban will affect two foreign airlines — SilkAir and Fiji Airways — that use them for flights to Australia. The authority said Singapore's SilkAir has already grounded its 737 Max jets, and that it is working with regulators there and in Fiji to minimise disruptions. It said that Fiji Airways has two 737 Max 8 jets in its fleet. Fiji Airways and Fiji's Civil Aviation Authority said they would ground the fleet until more information is known about the cause of the Ethiopian Airlines accident.
Cayman Airways, a Caribbean carrier, said it stopped using its two Max 8 jets starting Monday. President and CEO Fabian Whorms said the move will cause changes to flight schedules. Cayman is the flag carrier of Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory.
Indonesia said it would temporarily ground Max 8 jets to inspect their airworthiness. Director General of Air Transportation Polana B. Pramesti said the move was made to ensure flight safety. A Lion Air model of the same plane crashed in Indonesia in October. Indonesian airlines operate 11 Max 8 jets. Lion Air, which owns 10 of them, said it will try to minimise the impact of the decision on operations. The other Max 8 jet belongs to national carrier Garuda.
The Civil Aviation Authority said no Malaysian carriers operate the Max 8, but that foreign airlines are banned from flying the plane in Malaysia, and from transiting in the country, until further notice.
Mexican airline Aeromexico has suspended flights of its six Max 8 jets. Aeromexico said it "fully" trusts the safety of its fleet but ordered the grounding to ensure "the safety of its operations and the peace of mind of its customers." It said other planes will take over the routes usually flown by the Max 8.
Oman and the United Arab Emirates barred flights by Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft. Oman's Public Authority for Civil Aviation made the sultanate's announcement, without elaborating on its reasoning. State-owned Oman Air operates five Max 8 aircraft and said it was rescheduling other planes for its flights.
Comair, the operator of British Airways and Kulula flights in South Africa, says it has grounded its Boeing 737 Max 8 while it consults with Boeing, other operators and technical experts.
A statement does not say how many planes are affected. It says the decision was made without intervention from regulatory authorities.
South Korean airline Eastar Jet said it would suspend operations of its two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes and replaced them with Boeing 737-800 planes starting Wednesday on routes to Japan and Thailand. The airline says it hasn't found any problems, but is voluntarily grounding the planes in response to customer concerns.
In a statement on Twitter Tuesday, Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi said all Boeing 737 Max flights are suspended until the "uncertainty affecting safety is cleared." He added that passenger safety was the company's priority.
Icelandair Group says it has temporarily suspended operations of its three Boeing 737 Max aircraft until further notice.
President and CEO Bogi Nels Bogason said Tuesday that the company will follow developments closely and work with local, European and U.S. authorities on any steps that need to be taken.
He said the temporary suspension won't impact the company's operations, as it only affects three aircraft out of a fleet of 33.
New Zealand and Fiji have suspended Boeing 737 Max 8 flights in and out of the two countries following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jetliner.
The decision only affects one operator, Fiji Airways. No New Zealand airlines use the Max 8 planes.
- with AP