What's Wrong with the Boeing 737 Max 8? Why Did Donald Trump Issue Emergency Order Grounding Flights?

Days after a deadly plane crash in Ethiopia, President Donald Trump said all Boeing 737 Max 8 airplanes and related aircraft would be grounded in the United States. But what exactly is wrong with the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane?

What Is Wrong With the Boeing 737 Max 8 Plane?

On Sunday, an Ethiopian Airlines flight that departed from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, crashed six minutes after taking off and all 157 passengers were killed. The plane involved in the crash was the Boeing 737 Max 8, which was first used for commercial flights in 2017. In October, an Indonesian Lion Air Flight, which was also a Boeing 737 Max 8, crashed and killed all 189 people on board.

The cause of either crash hasn't been determined, but Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Officer Tewolde GebreMariam told CNN the pilot had difficulties with flight control of the airplane.

"We believe the similarities [between the two crashes] are substantial," GebreMariam said.

He called speculation into the cause "not helpful" but added that there are questions about the airplane that haven't been answered. Officials recovered the black box from the Ethiopian Airlines flight, which will provide investigators with information about the crash.

In the minutes before the Lion Air crash, the plane's angle-of-attack sensor malfunctioned, as reported by Bloomberg. The angle-of-attack sensor is responsible for measuring how high or low the plane's nose is pointed relative to the oncoming air.

An incorrect conclusion that the nose was pointed too high prompted a stall warning in the cockpit, Bloomberg reported. The stall warning tried to put the plane in a nose dive and unlike a previous incident when the pilots were able to shut off the motor pushing the nose down, the pilots on the Lion Air flight that crashed didn't take that step. However, it's still unclear what caused the crash.

On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) explained that the agency's review of the information available showed no systemic performance issues and that therefore there wasn't a reason to ground flights. However, the agency said if it identified any issues that affected the "airworthiness" of the aircraft, it would take immediate action.

Shortly after Trump's announcement, the FAA announced it ordered the temporary grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operated by American airlines and in American territory.

"The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today," the FAA announced.

The grounding will be in effect until a further investigation can be conducted, including the examination of the aircraft's flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders.

Why Did Donald Trump Issue Emergency?

On Wednesday, Trump announced that he issued an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Ahead of the United States' decision to ground the aircraft, many countries across the globe pulled the Boeing planes, including China, Indonesia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

"[Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and the acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration Daniel Elwell] are all in agreement with the action," Trump said. "Any plane currently in the air will go to its destination and thereafter be grounded until further notice."

Boeing said it has "full confidence" in the safety of the 737 Max, however, it decided to temporarily suspend the fleet's operation out of an abundance of caution and to reassure the public of the aircraft's safety.

"Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be," Boeing said. "There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. 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."

Trump called Boeing an "incredible company" and expressed his hope that the company would come up with an answer quickly.

donald trump boeing 737 max 8 grounded faa
A Southwest Boeing 737 Max 8 en route from Tampa, Florida, prepares to land at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Monday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump issued an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Joe Raedle/Getty Images