The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday grounded all Boeing 737 Max jets in the U.S., citing new evidence that showed similarities between two fatal crashes of the popular planes that have killed 346 people in less than five months.
The move marks a stunning turnaround for the U.S., which has stood by the American-made aircraft as dozens of countries around the world grounded the planes.
The crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on Sunday came less than five months after a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 — the same type of plane — plunged into the Java Sea minutes into the flight from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board. Both planes were new, delivered from Boeing just months before their doomed flights.
New satellite data shows the plane's movement was similar to the October crash, the FAA's acting administrator Daniel Elwell told reporters on a call Wednesday. The agency also took physical evidence into account, but Elwell declined to elaborate.
"It became clear the track was very close and behaved similarly to the Lion Air flight," Elwell told reporters on a call Wednesday. "My hope is the FAA, the carriers, the manufacturers and all parties will work very hard to make this grounding as short as possible so that these airplanes can get back up in the sky."
The FAA, which is investigating the crash along with Ethiopian authorities and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, said the grounding will remain in effect during the investigation.
The FAA did not have enough data to warrant grounding the planes earlier, he said. "We are a fact-driven, a data-based organization," said Elwell. "Since this accident occurred we were resolute in our decision that we would not take action until we had data to support taking action. That data coalesced today and we made the call."