President Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States was grounding Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, reversing an earlier decision by American regulators to keep the jets flying after a second deadly crash in Ethiopia.
The Federal Aviation Administration had for days resisted calls to ground the plane even as safety regulators in some 42 countries had banned flights by the jets. As recently as Tuesday, the agency said it had seen “no systemic performance issues” that would prompt it to halt flights of the jet.
“The safety of the American people, of all people, is our paramount concern,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the White House.
[Two Times reporters flew on Boeing 737 Maxs the day before the planes were grounded in the United States.]
The crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 killed all 157 people on board, and took place just minutes after takeoff. In October, a 737 Max 8 operated by Lion Air, an Indonesian carrier, crashed in similar circumstances and 189 people were killed.
The order came hours after Canada’s transport minister said that newly available satellite-tracking data suggested similarities between the crash in Ethiopia and another accident last October. In a statement released after Mr. Trump’s announcement, the F.A.A. also cited “newly refined satellite data” as supporting the decision to ground the jets.
Marc Garneau, Canada’s transport minister, had said that satellite tracing data of the vertical path of the Ethiopian jet at take off and comparable data from the Lion Air crash showed similar “vertical fluctuations” and “oscillations.”
Boeing 737 Max 8 Jets Are Grounded Everywhere
The jets typically make more than 8,500 flights per week worldwide.
[These countries have grounded the planes.]
The American and Canadian decisions also come after Ethiopian Airlines said that one of two pilots on Sunday’s flight reported “flight-control problems” to air traffic controllers minutes before the plane crashed and told controllers that he wanted to turn back to Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. The pilot was cleared to do so, three minutes before contact was lost with the cockpit, a spokesman for the airline said on Wednesday.
The disclosure suggests that a problem with the handling of the aircraft or the computerized flight control system could have been a factor. There has been no suggestion so far of terrorism or other outside interference in the functioning of the aircraft, which was only a few months old.
[Read the latest updates on the crash and the fallout.]
Officials examining the Lion Air crash have raised the possibility that a new flight-control system could have contributed to that earlier accident. As they banned flights by the aircraft this week, some safety regulators cited concerns that pilots would be unable to handle the aircraft if they were given inaccurate signals from key flight instruments.
The accidents have put Boeing on the defensive. The 737 Max is Boeing’s best-selling jet ever and expected to be a major driver of profit with around 5,000 of the planes on order. Its shares have fallen about 13 percent this week.
Following the Indonesia crash, Boeing was expected to update its software and training guidelines so that airlines can teach their pilots to fly the planes more safely and easily. That software update is planned for April.
“Boeing is an incredible company,” Mr. Trump said. “They are working very, very hard right now and hopefully they’ll very quickly come up with the answer, but until they do, the planes are grounded.”
On Tuesday morning, Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, had called Mr. Trump to personally express his confidence in the safety of the jets, according to two people briefed on the conversation.
The brief call had already been in the works, but it happened to come shortly after Mr. Trump raised concerns that airplanes were becoming too complex to fly and therefore endangering passengers. “Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT,” he wrote on Twitter.
Boeing said it supported the decision to ground the planes.
“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution,” Mr. 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.”