In the wake of two deadly crashes and increasing public pressure, US officials have decided to ban flights by the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, according to The New York Times. Since the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on Sunday, 42 other countries had already grounded the airplane, but until Wednesday, US regulators had said there were no plans to do so, asserting that they had no reason to believe the planes were unsafe.
The Max 8 is a relatively new model in the series, having made its first commercial flight in May of 2017.
The model was involved in not only the recent Ethiopian crash, which killed 157 people, but also a crash in October which killed 189, under similar circumstances.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) still said Tuesday there were “no systemic performance issues” with the 737 Max 8. However, consumers, politicians, and workers unions including pilots and flight attendants, had called for the US to follow the lead of other countries.
And on Wednesday, President Trump announced a reversal, saying the US would ban flights by the 737 model. Canada also announced plans to do so on Wednesday.
The FAA said the decision came after its investigation found “new information from the wreckage concerning the aircraft’s configuration just after takeoff,” and new “satellite-based tracking of the aircraft’s flight path.”
The new data, they said, points to similarities between the crashes that “warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed.”
According to Canadian transport minister Marc Garneau, data from both crashes showed “vertical fluctuations” and “oscillations.”
One of the pilots on the Ethiopian Airlines flight had reported “flight-control problems,” and the plane was cleared to return to the airport in Addis Ababa shortly before it lost contact and crashed. Those events suggest the pilot struggled with the handling of the aircraft, or with the computerized flight-control system.
Some officials have suggested that a new flight-control system could have caused problems, and pilot’s unions said after the crash last year that they hadn’t been informed of changes to the flight-control system that could automatically point the plane’s nose downward under some circumstances.
In recent days, officials have criticized the FAA for not requiring pilot training on the new flight-control feature.
Despite voicing support for Boeing in other statements, President Trump tweeted Tuesday:
“Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better.”