The Federal Aviation Administration in the United States says that new information from sophisticated monitoring systems, as well as insights from the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, led to its decision Wednesday to ban Boeing 737 MAX8 and MAX9 flights in the U.S.
The FAA grounded all flights at 3 p.m. Wednesday, allowing only those aircraft that were already en route to continue to their destinations. The FAA was one of the last aviation authorities in the world to make the decision, after Boeing officials maintained that the planes were safe and the company CEO appealed to President Donald Trump to keep them flying.
The new evidence revealed similarities between the ET302 accident and Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 accident in October. “On March 13, 2019, the investigation of the ET302 crash developed new information from the wreckage concerning the aircraft’s configuration just after takeoff,” the FAA said in its emergency order filing. “That, taken together with newly refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft’s flight path, indicates some similarities.”
The “possibility of a shared cause” warrants further investigation and protection of public safety, the FAA said.
Some of the new data came from a U.S.-based company called Aireon, which provides satellite-based automatic dependent surveillance–broadcast (ADS-B) services for monitoring global aircraft. Aireon said it provided its data from ET302 to Canada and other aviation authorities who were making their decisions as well.
The FAA acting director confirmed that a software fix for the affected planes, developed after the Lion Air crash, is not yet available. There is no firm estimate on a timeline for when that will be complete or Boeing 737 MAX flights will resume.
The entire U.S. court filing from FAA is linked here.
Image: Bole International Airport file