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The US should ground Boeing 737 Max jets until they are deemed safe, says ex-Transportation Secretary LaHood

Key Points
  • Ray LaHood urges the Trump administration to ground all Boeing 737 Max jets after Sunday's deadly crash and another one less than five months ago.
  • "These planes need to be grounded until they are inspected by Boeing and FAA," he says, as many airlines around the world take them out of service.
  • LaHood, a GOP congressman before joining the Obama administration, compares the Max situation to one he encountered as Transportation secretary.
Ray LaHood, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation on March 8, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Kate Patterson | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is urging the Trump administration to ground all Boeing 737 Max jets after Sunday's deadly crash in Ethiopia and and another one less than five months ago off Indonesia.

"These planes need to be grounded until they are inspected by Boeing and FAA," LaHood said in a "Squawk on the Street" interview Tuesday on CNBC. "You can't compromise safety."

At least 27 airlines around the world have grounded the Max jets as the investigation continues into Sunday's Ethiopian Airlines accident. In October, Indonesia's Lion Air saw one of its Boeing 737 Max 8 jets go down in the Java Sea.

LaHood compared the Max aircraft situation to one he encountered when he led the Transportation Department during former President Barack Obama's administration.

"Take the plane out of service, just as we did with the Dreamliner, until the flying public has a 100 percent assurance that these planes are safe. And they don't have that assurance today," said LaHood — a Republican, who before joining Obama's Cabinet, served 14 years as a congressman from Illinois. "We ordered all those planes grounded until they could be inspected by Boeing" and FAA safety officials.

The FAA said Monday that it didn't see a reason to ground the jets. Boeing noted that decision on Tuesday and said it wasn't planning to issue new guidance to pilots "based on the information currently available."

In January 2013, after two Japanese airlines experienced battery-related malfunctions, all Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets were taken out of service in the United States. Regulators around the world, at the time, followed LaHood's lead. The grounding lasted about four months in the U.S., while Boeing repaired the battery systems on the planes to make sure they would not catch fire.

LaHood told CNBC on Tuesday that Boeing 737 Max jets should be out of service until there's "full confidence that these planes are safe."