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U.S. Will Join Other Nations In Removing Boeing 737 Max 8 Jets From Service

Mar 13, 2019
Originally published on March 13, 2019 4:10 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The U.S. is grounding the Boeing 737 Max. That line of planes was involved in two deadly crashes in the last five months, most recently over the weekend in Ethiopia. Any 737 Max plane currently in the air will finish flying to its destination, then be grounded until further notice. Many other countries around the world had already pulled the planes out of service. NPR's Camila Domonoske is following this story and is here with us in the studio. Hi, Camila.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What do we know about the decision to ground the planes?

DOMONOSKE: So you have these two crashes of the exact same model of plane in fairly similar circumstances just a few months apart. A lot of countries around the world based pretty much just off that information saw this as enough reason to ground the planes. You saw a lot of announcements over the last few days, but the U.S. was waiting, they said, for more information. And today, the FAA said they had that information. There is new data from the crash site according to U.S. authorities and from, quote-unquote, "newly refined satellite imagery" and that information tells the FAA that there are signs of similarities between these two crashes that were enough to prompt the grounding of all of these planes that operate in the U.S. And that's about 72 planes here in the U.S. They fly for Southwest, for American and for United.

SHAPIRO: Just yesterday, Boeing's CEO was telling President Trump that these planes were safe. So what's Boeing saying today?

DOMONOSKE: Boeing still says that the planes are safe, but Boeing also supports the grounding of the 737 Max out of, quote, "an abundance of caution." CEO Dennis Muilenburg also says that they're doing everything they can to understand the cause of the accidents and make sure it doesn't happen again.

SHAPIRO: So what does that mean for passengers here in the United States?

DOMONOSKE: Yeah. So between those three airlines that operate these planes, we're looking at about 275 flights per day that are now grounded, and the airlines need to find alternate routes for these people. That's a lot of rebookings. And this announcement came today while people were in the air. Rafael Nendel-Flores was on his flight from Los Angeles to D.C. when he found out from MSNBC that his plane was being grounded. He told NPR after they landed that his first thought wasn't actually about safety.

RAFAEL NENDEL-FLORES: We're supposed to be on a 737 going back on Friday. That is my oldest daughter's birthday, so I'm like, am I going to miss that? Because I won't be able to get back to LA, so I have to see how that works out.

DOMONOSKE: So lots of people have taken to social media to say that they're worried about possibly being stranded. United, Southwest and American, the three airlines who run these planes in the U.S., say that they are working on rebooking flights without disrupting people's travel plans. But, you know, talking about the chaos of this announcement, President Trump scooped the FAA on the fact that this cancellation, this grounding, was coming. And after he announced it, Southwest issued a statement saying they'd heard about it through media reports, suggesting that perhaps the communications weren't quite clear.

SHAPIRO: Wow. NPR's Camila Domonoske, thanks a lot.

DOMONOSKE: Yeah, happy to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.