Boeing 737 MAX Airplanes Grounded By Federal Aviation Administration Until Further Notice

Effective as of 3:00 earlier today, Wednesday, March 13, 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States has ordered the temporary grounding of Boeing 737 MAX airplanes which are operated by airlines in the United States or its territories.

Boeing 737 MAX Airplanes Grounded By Federal Aviation Administration Until Further Notice

The official statement is as follows:

The FAA is ordering the temporary grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory. The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today. 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, including examination of information from the aircraft’s flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders. An FAA team is in Ethiopia assisting the NTSB as parties to the investigation of the Flight 302 accident. The agency will continue to investigate.

The order comes after many other airlines and official aviation agencies in other countries has already issued similar orders or changes in policies pertaining to the Boeing 737 MAX — and it conflicts with this Continued Airworthiness Notification which was issued only two days ago to the international community by the same agency in relation to the aircraft.

The official response to the order from The Boeing Company is as follows:

Boeing continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. However, after consultation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and aviation authorities and its customers around the world, Boeing has determined — 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.

“On behalf of the entire Boeing team, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in these two tragic accidents,” said Dennis Muilenburg, president, CEO, Chairman of The Boeing Company.

“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. There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”

Boeing makes this recommendation and supports the decision by the FAA.

No specific date or time has been announced as to when the temporary grounding of the aircraft will expire, with the airplanes permitted to fly once again.

In defense of the aircraft, Jon Weaks — who is the president of Southwest Airlines Pilots Association — issued this statement in response to the aforementioned Continued Airworthiness Notification: “…the MAX aircraft has 17,000 recordable parameters and Southwest has compiled and analyzed a tremendous amount of data from more than 41,000 flights operated by the 34 MAX aircraft on property, and the data supports Southwest’s continued confidence in the airworthiness and safety of the MAX.”

However, Sara Nelson — who is the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA — released this statement after the temporary grounding of the fleet of Boeing 737 MAX airplanes in the United States was officially announced:

It is good news that the 737 MAX will now get the focus it needs to address the concerns of undetermined safety issues. We must focus on the needed fix, rather than the uncertainty of flight.

Lives must come first always. But a brand is at stake as well. And that brand is not just Boeing. It’s America. What America means in international aviation and by extension in the larger world more generally—that we set the standard for safety, competence, and honesty in governance of aviation.

We must be leaders in safety always. We thank all who spoke up. Aviation workers will always stand up for safety. We have that ability and right through our union. It’s important to recognize the critical role unions play in raising issues, demanding the best of ourselves, of management, and government.

Incidents Which Prompted the Order

A Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft — which operated as Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi — crashed approximately six minutes after takeoff on Sunday, March 10, 2019 at 8:38 in the morning; and no survivors have been reported amongst the 149 passengers or eight members of the flight crew.

The airplane was a relatively new one, as its first flight occurred on Tuesday, October 30, 2018.

Coincidentally, only one day before that first flight — on Monday, October 29, 2018 — a Boeing 737-800 MAX airplane crashed. It operated as Lion Air flight 610 from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang as a domestic flight within Indonesia. The airplane crashed into the Java Sea approximately 35 nautical miles northeast of Jakarta at 6:33 that morning local time, killing all 181 passengers and eight members of the flight crew who were aboard.

Despite the similarities in both incidents, no distinct correlation has been officially ascertained by any government agency. Investigations are still under way at this time.

The Boeing 787 “Dreamliner”: A Different Federal Aviation Administration?

The Federal Aviation Administration was far more proactive in passenger safety with the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” airplane model when it was first introduced than it has been pertaining to the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The fleet of Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” airplanes suffered from lithium battery issues when it was first placed into service — such as when a battery fire occurred in January of 2013 at Logan International Airport in Boston, which prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to ground the entire fleet of Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft worldwide for months — and greater than $600 million dollars was spent before the worldwide fleet of Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft was permitted to fly again in April of 2013

…and problems continued to plague the fleet of aircraft. For example, a maintenance crew at Narita Airport reportedly discovered white smoke and an unidentified liquid emanating from the main battery of a Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft in January of 2014 — supposedly two hours before it was to depart from Tokyo to Bangkok with 158 passengers.

Thankfully, those problems with lithium batteries have not seemed to plague the fleet of Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” airplanes lately — but safer and faster batteries which last longer and are more efficient would always be welcomed.

The United States has almost always led the rest of the world in terms of safety in commercial aviation — but despite the otherwise stellar safety record of the variations of the Boeing 737 aircraft in general since its first commercial flight occurred 51 years ago in February of 1968, did the Federal Aviation Administration drop the ball in waiting to uncharacteristically become the last entity to ground the troubled aircraft?


Expect delays or cancellations of flights as a result of this order if you are going to fly as a passenger in the near future with an airline which currently has this model aircraft in its fleet — unless the airline can quickly replace the airplane with a different model, as has already occurred with some flights worldwide.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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