President Trump on Wednesday ordered a ground stop of all Boeing 737 Max jets in the U.S., joining a slew of other nations in banning the aircraft after a fatal crash on Sunday involving an update to the Chicago-based manufacturer's most popular plane.
"We are going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition to ground all flights of the 737 Max 8 and the 737 Max 9 and planes associated with that line," Trump said. “Pilots have been notified. Airlines have been all notified. Airlines are agreeing with us."
Despite the emergency action, he called Boeing -- one of the largest U.S. exporters -- an "incredible company."
In a statement, Boeing said it still has "full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max."
“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution. Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be," CEO Dennis Muilenburg said. "We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”
Muilenburg and Trump spoke on Tuesday, a White House spokesman previously said.
A Boeing Max aircraft operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed on Sunday killing 157 people, less than five months after another crash in Indonesia involving a jet from the fleet. U.S. officials joined Canadian authorities on Wednesday in claiming that preliminary satellite data shows similarities between the two crashes.
The Federal Aviation Administration has been under pressure to halt operations of the fleet after countries including China, Ireland, the United Kingdom and all of Europe either suspended use of the aircraft or banned the planes from their airspace.
Several lawmakers -- including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas -- also called on the agency to act.
|BA||THE BOEING CO.||206.01||-3.33||-1.59%|
|LUV||SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO.||36.35||-0.47||-1.28%|
|AAL||AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC.||17.02||-0.04||-0.23%|
In the U.S., United Air Lines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines operate Boeing Max jets.
"Our teams will be working to rebook customers as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience," American said in a statement.
Southwest said it "remains confident in the Max 8" but is "immediately complying" with the order and removing the jets from its fleet. The carrier flies the plane on less than 5 percent of its daily flights.
United also said it would ground the 14 Max planes in its fleet.
Earlier in the week, Boeing said it was working on an update to the software of the jets, including changes to the so-called "angle of attack" input -- the device that tracks stalling on takeoff. Issues with the sensor are thought to have led to the Lion Air crash in October.
While the Wall Street Journal reported that approval of that software was delayed due to the 35-day government shutdown over Trump's request for funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the FAA's acting administrator on Wednesday said it did not impact the review.
The U.S. in 2013 orderd a ground stop on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, but the action impacted a much smaller number of planes. Through February, Boeing delivered 376 Max jets and has 4,636 unfilled orders.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.