WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order Wednesday grounding all Boeing 737 Max aircraft in the wake of a crash of an Ethiopian airliner that killed 157 people, a reversal for the U.S. after federal aviation regulators had maintained it had no data to show the jets are unsafe.
The decision came hours after Canada joined about 40 other countries in barring the Max 8 from its airspace, saying satellite-tracking data showed possible but unproven similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and a previous crash involving the model five months ago. The U.S., one of the last holdouts, also grounded a larger version of the plane, the Max 9.
Daniel Elwell, acting head of the FAA, said enhanced satellite images and new evidence gathered on the ground led his agency to order the jets out of the air.
The data, he said, linked the behavior and flight path of the Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 to data from the crash of a Lion Air jet that plunged into the Java Sea and killed 187 people in October.
"Evidence we found on the ground made it even more likely that the flight path was very close to Lion Air's," Elwell told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.
Satellite data right after the crash wasn't refined enough to give the FAA what it needed to make the decision to ground planes, Elwell said. But Wednesday, global air-traffic surveillance company Aireon and Boeing were able to enhance the initial data to make it more precise "to create a description of the flight that made it similar enough to Lion Air," Elwell said.
The Ethiopian plane's flight data and voice recorders will be sent to France for analysis, Elwell said. Some aviation experts have warned that finding answers in the crash could take months.
Officials at Lion Air in Indonesia have said sensors on their plane produced erroneous information on its last four flights, triggering an automatic nose-down command that the pilots were unable to overcome.
President Donald Trump, who announced the grounding, was briefed Wednesday on new developments in the investigation by Elwell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and they determined the planes should be grounded, the White House said. Trump spoke afterward with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg and Boeing signed on.
"At the end of the day, it is a decision that has the full support of the secretary, the president and the FAA as an agency," Elwell said.
Airlines, mainly Southwest, American and United, should be able to swap out planes pretty quickly, and passengers shouldn't be terribly inconvenienced, said Paul Hudson, president of flyersrights.org, which represents passengers. The Max, he said, makes up only a small percentage of the U.S. passenger jet fleet, he said.
"I think any disruptions will be very minor," he said. "The first quarter of the year is the slow quarter, generally for air travel," adding that the airlines have planes on the ground that aren't being used on trans-Atlantic flights that could be diverted to domestic routes.
Boeing issued a statement saying it supported the FAA's decision even though it "continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX." The company also said it had itself recommended the suspension of the Max fleet after consultations with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.
"We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution," Boeing said.
The groundings will have a far-reaching financial impact on Boeing, at least in the short term, said John Cox, a veteran pilot and CEO of Safety Operating Systems.
In addition to those that have already been grounded, there are more than 4,600 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes on backlog that are not yet delivered to airlines.
"There are delivery dates that aren't being met, there's usage of the aircraft that's not being met, and all the supply chain things that Boeing so carefully crafted," Cox said. "If they can't deliver the airplanes, where do they put the extra engines and the extra fuselage and the extra electrical components?"
Even so, Cox thinks Boeing will recover, because the planes typically fly for 30 to 40 years, and any needed fix will be made quickly, he said.
Boeing's shares have plummeted almost 11 percent since Sunday's crash. Wednesday, the stock sank to $363.36 after the FAA announcement but then recovered to close at $377.14, up 0.5 percent for the day. It rose slightly in after-hours trading to $378.
In making the decision to ground the Max 8s in Canada, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said a comparison of vertical fluctuations found a "similar profile" between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash.
Canada lost 18 of its citizens in Sunday's crash, the second-highest number after Kenya. A Canadian family of six were among the dead.
Lebanon and Kosovo also barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from their airspace Wednesday, and Norwegian Air Shuttles said it would seek compensation from Boeing after grounding its fleet. Egypt banned the operation of the aircraft. Thailand ordered budget airline Thai Lion Air to suspend flying the planes for risk assessments. Lion Air confirmed reports it has put on hold the scheduled delivery of four of the jets.
WAVERLY — Shakers Gentleman's Club won its decade-long battle with the Waverly City Council for a liquor license Tuesday, and owner Dan Robinson negotiated his exit strategy from the adult-entertainment business.
The club, which has been in operation for 24 years, will shut down in spring 2023, when the newly approved liquor license expires. In addition, the council stipulated that no sexually-oriented business will be allowed to occupy that site afterward.
It was Robinson who made that suggestion.
"At that point, I'll be 28 years (in the business), and I have some other business ventures that I'm interested in," he said Wednesday. "I'm going to move on at that point to some other things."
The special-use liquor permit has several other conditions. The business is required to have a closing time of 2 a.m., change the bright-pink building color to a neutral color and remove a van that has nude photos from the premises, which Robinson said is already gone.
The permit also states Shakers "shall not post defamatory, derogatory or profane statements on any signage or structures on the property," referring to statements posted on the sign outside the club criticizing regulations backed by former Sen. Theresa Thibodeau of Omaha and Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Capt. Josh Clark of the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office provided statistics on law enforcement calls made to the business. He said in the last three years, there have been an average of 11 calls per year.
"I would say over the 20 years that I've been working at the sheriff's office, it's been pretty much consistently like that," Clark said. "It's pretty quiet out there."
Mayor Mike Werner said Robinson runs Shakers "pretty tight" and encouraged the support from the rest of the council.
"I feel it's in the city's best interest, and it conserves our legal resources, money and time," he said of approving the liquor license. "He's operated there 24 years, I think operating there four (more) years isn't going to really kill anybody, so to speak."
Shakers had never had a liquor license and operated as a bottle club the last several years.
Waverly annexed Shakers in 2005, and three years later, Robinson first sought a liquor license.
But the city council recommended denial that year, leading Robinson to withdraw his application before the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission could make a final decision.
Last summer, Robinson again sought a liquor license after state lawmakers passed a law empowering the Liquor Control Commission to regulate bottle clubs, where members pay fees and bring in their own alcohol.
But just like before, the City Council denied his request.
In September, the council enacted a nudity ban that carved out an exemption for Shakers but barred it from serving alcohol.
With Tuesday's approval, Shakers is likely to be granted the liquor license by the Liquor Control Commission unless a routine state investigation of the application uncovers problems or enough Waverly residents mount a protest.
Commission Executive Director Hobert Rupe said at least three people who live in the city would need to file a protest of the license request within 10 days of the commission receiving notice of a local recommendation.
State law wouldn't force Shakers dancers to keep more clothes on, and an ordinance amendment under consideration in Waverly would provide the business a grandfather clause to serve alcohol and allow nude dancing under the city's nudity ban.