Detroit Metro braces for delays as Trump grounds all Boeing 737 Max 8/9 aircraft
Washington – The U.S. issued an emergency order Wednesday grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft “effective immediately,” in the wake of the crash of an Ethiopian Airliner that killed 157 people, President Donald Trump said.
Many nations had already barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from its airspace, but until Trump’s announcement, the Federal Aviation Administration had said that it didn’t have any data to show the jets are unsafe. Trump cited “new information” that had come to light in the ongoing investigation into incident. He did not elaborate.
“All of those planes are grounded, effective immediately,” Trump said during a scheduled briefing on border security.
The FAA issued a statement at 3 p.m. ordering the temporary grounding of the aircraft.
"The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today," according to a statement from the agency. "This evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to FAA this morning, led to this decision."
The grounding will remain in effect pending further investigation, the agency said.
At Detroit Metropolitan Airport, some flights were already canceled due to bad weather conditions out west. A spokeswoman for the airport declined to comment and instead referred all communication to the individual airlines.
American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines were among those with Max 8 and Max 9 models in their fleet operating out of Detroit Metro.
American vowed to "make every effort to rebook customers as quickly as possible," after the grounding. American Airlines grounded 24 of its MAX 8 aircrafts saying on average, American operates 85 flights per day on the aircraft.
“American has flown more than 2.5 million passengers — during 46,400 operating hours encompassing nearly 18,000 flights — safely on our MAX 8 fleet since the first one was delivered Sept. 2017 and began commercial service later that November,” American Airlines said in a statement Wednesday.
Southwest Airlines said the company is complying with the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and they have also removed their 34 MAX 8 aircraft from their schedule service. Southwest say they operate a fleet of more than 750 Boeing 737s, and the 34 MAX 8 aircraft account for less than five percent of their daily flights, they say.
Southwest says any customer booked on a cancelled MAX 8 flight can rebook on alternate flights without any additional fees or fare differences within 14 days of their original date of travel.
United Airlines said the affected aircraft account for 40 flights per day and "through a combination of spare aircraft and rebooking customers, we do not anticipate a significant operational impact as a result of this order."
Antroin Smiley of Greensboro, North Carolina, who was at Metro Airport's McNamara Terminal on his way to Texas, said he was relieved that Trump grounded the Max 8 and 9 aircraft.
"It's not the pilots, it's the planes," he said. "Ground them so they can be inspected. They need to check them for problems."
Once the airplanes are found to be safe, Smiley said it would be fine to put them back into service.
"It's like an auto recall," he said. "I'm not saying I wouldn't fly (Max 8s) again. If they get the issues fixed, I would."
Trump said any airplane currently in the air will go to its destination and then be grounded. He added all airlines and affected pilots had been notified.
Trump said the safety of the American people is of “paramount concern,” and added that the FAA would soon put out a statement on the action.
Trump said the decision to ground the aircraft “didn’t have to be made, but we thought it was the right decision.”
The president insisted that the announcement was coordinated with aviation officials in Canada, U.S. carriers and aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
“Boeing is an incredible company,” Trump said. “They are working very, very hard right now and hopefully they’ll quickly come up with an answer.”
In a statement, Boeing said it “continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX.” The company added that it had decided “out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety – to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft.”
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company was “supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution.”
Detroit News Staff Writers Oralandar Brand-Williams and Sarah Rahal and Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Deb Riechmann and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.
How other countries are handling the Boeing 737 Max 8/9:
- AUSTRALIA - Australia has announced a temporary ban on flights by 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.
- BRAZIL - Brazil’s Gol Airlines has suspended the use of seven Max 8 jets. The airline said it hopes to return the aircraft to use as soon as possible. Gol said it has made nearly 3,000 flights with the Max 8.
- CANADA - Canadian on Wednesday closed its airspace to the Max 8. 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. Canada lost 18 of its citizens in Sunday’s crash, the second highest number after Kenya.
- CAYMAN ISLANDS - Cayman Airways, a Caribbean carrier, has stopped using its two Max 8 jets. President and CEO Fabian Whorms said the move starting Monday will cause changes to flight schedules. Cayman is the flag carrier of Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory.
- CHINA - 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. There were eight Chinese citizens on the Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed shortly after taking off on Sunday.
- ETHIOPIA - A spokesman for Ethiopian Airlines said 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.
- EUROPE - The European Aviation Safety Agency has issued a directive grounding all 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft. 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.” The grounding applies to all European Union airspace.
- FIJI - Fiji has suspended all Max 8 flights in and out of the country. The decision only affects one operator, Fiji Airways.
- HONG KONG - Hong Kong has banned the operation of all 737 Max aircraft “into, out of and over” the key Asian aviation hub beginning Wednesday evening. The announcement from the Civil Aviation Department said the ban would continue “until further notice.” It said the department has been in close contact with the two airlines, SpiceJet of India and Russia’s Globus Airlines, that use the aircraft to operate flights into and out of Hong Kong International Airport.
- ICELAND - Icelandair Group has temporarily suspended operations of its three 737 Max aircraft until further notice. President and CEO Bogi Nels Bogason said Tuesday that the temporary suspension won’t impact the company’s operations, as it only affects three aircraft out of a fleet of 33.
- INDIA - India has grounded all 737 Max 8 planes. A statement late Tuesday said the planes “will be grounded till appropriate modifications and safety measures are undertaken to ensure their safe operations.” The statement did not say how many planes were affected.
- INDONESIA - Indonesia has temporarily grounded 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 minimize the impact of the decision on operations. The other Max 8 jet belongs to national carrier Garuda.
- NEW ZEALAND - New Zealand has suspended Max 8 flights in and out of the country. The decision only affects one operator, Fiji Airways. No New Zealand airlines use the Max 8 planes.
- MALAYSIA - 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.
- MEXICO - 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 - Oman and the United Arab Emirates have barred flights by Max 8 and Max 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.
- SINGAPORE - Singapore has temporarily banned Max 8 jets – and other models in the Max range – from entering and leaving the country. 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.”
- SOUTH AFRICA - Comair, the operator of British Airways and Kulula flights in South Africa, has grounded its Max 8 while it consults with Boeing, other operators and technical experts. Its statement did not say how many planes were affected. It said the decision was made without intervention from regulatory authorities.
- SOUTH KOREA - South Korean airline Eastar Jet has suspended operations of its two Max 8 planes and replaced them with Boeing 737-800 planes starting Wednesday on routes to Japan and Thailand. The airline said it hasn’t found any problems, but is voluntarily grounding the planes in response to customer concerns.
- TURKEY - Turkish Airlines has suspended all Max flights. In a statement Tuesday on Twitter, CEO Bilal Eksi said the suspension would continue until the “uncertainty affecting safety is cleared."
- UAE - The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority has banned the aircraft from its airspace in what is said was “a precautionary measure.” The Max is the workhorse of the Dubai government-owned budget carrier FlyDubai. It operates 11 Max 8 and 2 Max 9 jets. Its total fleet is around 60 aircraft, including other models of the 737.
- VIETNAM - Vietnam has banned Max planes from flying into its airspace. 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.