President Trump on Wednesday ordered the temporary grounding of all Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 jets operating in the United States, mirroring the orders of aviation authorities across the world that have banned the planes from operating after two large crashes in five months.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) initially declined to suspend the jets from service, despite orders from Great Britain, Canada, China and others to immediately ground the planes after the Ethiopian Airlines disaster that killed 157 on Sunday. In a press conference on Wednesday, Trump praised Boeing as a "great company," but cited the safety of U.S. airspace as "paramount." He said: "Pilots have been notified, airlines have been all notified. Airlines are agreeing with this. The safety of the American people and all people is our paramount concern."
The Boeing 737 Max 8 jet has been a central concern of regulators across the world since Sunday's catastrophic Ethiopian Airlines crash, which killed 157 people. Another Max 8 crash occurred last November in Indonesia, when Lion Air Flight 610 plummeted into the ocean, killing 189.
For at least two Max 8 pilots, the order should be welcome news: Pilots working for two U.S. airlines logged complaints about the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet prior to Sunday's crash, CNN revealed on Wednesday, submitting their concerns to a federal database. The complaints heap further scrutiny on manufacturing giant Boeing, which has so far delivered thousands of Max 8 jets internationally.
Though the FAA waited longer to temporarily ban the Max 8, prominent politicians across the spectrum called for its immediate grounding in the wake of Sunday's crash. The pilots' concerns uncovered by CNN share eerie similarities to the factors behind the doomed Lion Air flight: In both complaints, pilots said the aircraft's nose pointed downward upon ascending. One pilot called the aircraft's flight manual "inadequate and almost criminally insufficient" in a complaint that lambasted the FAA, Boeing, and the airline operating the plane.
It's currently unknown which airlines the pilots were working at the time of their complaints, but only two U.S. carriers fly the Max 8: American Airlines has 24, while Southwest flies 34. United Airlines flies a bigger variant of the jet, the Max 9.
Most alarmingly, the complaints logged by pilots bear similarities to the crash of Lion Air Flight 610: A preliminary report revealed that faulty sensors on the plane's exterior activated an autopilot safety feature that positioned the aircraft's nose downward shortly after takeoff. Pilots attempted to counteract the glitch, but ultimately failed, crashing into the Java Sea roughly 15 minutes after the takeoff. Boeing updated its Max 8 safety bulletin after November's disaster, providing information on how to disengage the automatic nose-down safety feature.
In the case of Sunday's disaster, the pilot reported a flight-control issue shortly after departing Addis Ababa. Investigators in Europe will examine the Ethiopia Airline's flight recorder and voice data black boxes in the coming days, in an effort to determine if the two disasters are linked by a common flaw.
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