The FAA said its order was prompted by new evidence from the Ethiopian Airlines crash site gathered on Wednesday which, together with newly-refined satellite data of the aircraft's flight path, indicated similarities with the Lion Air flight which killed all 189 people on board on Oct 29 past year.
On Tuesday, airline pilots on at least two USA flights also said an automated system on their Boeing 737 Max planes seemed to cause their planes to tilt down suddenly.
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"It became clear to all parties that the track of the Ethiopian Airlines [flight] was very close and behaved very similarly to the Lion Air flight", FAA acting administrator Dan Elwell said.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian Airlines said Wednesday that it will send the voice and data recorders from its ill-fated Flight 302 to be analyzed in Europe.
In a statement, Southwest said it was complying with the FAA requirement even though it remained confident in the Max 8 after more than 41,000 completed flights. Boeing updated its Max 8 safety bulletin after November's disaster, providing information on how to disengage the automatic nose-down safety feature.
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There's no word on how long this situation will last, but Powell says the priority will absolutely be fixing any problems they find so they can get these planes back in the air. "We have removed our 34 Max 8 aircraft from scheduled service".
Russia's aviation authority on Thursday also suspended flights by the planes in the country's airspace, the Interfax news agency said.
The safety notice, which goes into effect immediately, restricts all commercial passenger flights of the Boeing Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft from arriving, departing or overflying Canadian airspace.
The grounding was welcomed by American air workers, and the announcement came hours after the US Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) called on the US to ground the planes in question. Some early-moving regulators admitted they had few specific facts suggesting the airplane was unsafe, but preferred to err on the side of caution.
Ethiopian Airlines spokesman Asrat Begashaw said it was still unclear what happened on Sunday, but its pilot had reported control issues as opposed to external factors such as birds. The pilot attempted to stop the software and correct the plane, but ultimately, "the pilot lost that fight with the software".
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Norwegian has had to cancel 19 flights, including trans-Atlantic flights to the United States that use the 737 MAX 8.