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US Congress queries why FAA took so long to ground Boeing 737 jets

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Congress plans to investigate why halting flights of the 737 Max was delayed

WASHINGTON: Congress plans to scrutinise why the United States waited so many days to ground all Boeing 737 Max jets involved in Sunday's crash in Ethiopia as other countries and airlines acted more quickly.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the order on Wednesday was the result of "new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today" and "newly refined satellite data" that Canada had cited earlier in its decision to halt flights.

The FAA did not disclose the new evidence at the scene but said it was "the missing pieces" that aligned the track of the two fatal Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes since October.

For decades, the US has led the world in aviation safety, often setting standards that were later adopted by other countries.

The agency came under heavy criticism from US lawmakers and others who questioned why the FAA waited so long to ground the Boeing 737 Max.

FAA officials planned to brief lawmakers on Thursday, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

While President Donald Trump announced the ban on television, acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said he made the decision with the support of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

"We were resolute in our position that we would not take action until we had data to support taking action," Mr Elwell told reporters. "That data coalesced today and we made the call."

Canada grounded the planes earlier on Wednesday while the European Union acted on Tuesday. China and some airlines ordered the planes not to fly within hours of the crash.

As of Wednesday night, regulators in Argentina and Mexico had not grounded planes.


House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, said "it has become abundantly clear to us that not only should the 737 Max be grounded but also that there must be a rigorous investigation into why the aircraft, which has critical safety systems that did not exist on prior models, was certified without requiring additional pilot training."

The Senate Commerce Committee also plans to hold a hearing as early as April.

Senator Ted Cruz said he plans "to investigate these crashes, determine their contributing factors, and ensure that the United States aviation industry remains the safest in the world". - REUTERS