President Donald Trump, concerned about the deadly crash of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 passenger plane in Ethiopia, spoke to Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg on Tuesday and received assurances that the aircraft was safe, two people briefed on the call said.
Trump was expected to hold an additional meeting on the issue later on Tuesday, according to an administration official.
The president, who owned his own airline, Trump Shuttle, from 1989 until 1992, is an aviation enthusiast. Before becoming president he flew on his own private jet and, after his inauguration, praised the presidential aircraft, Air Force One.
The Ethiopia crash on Sunday killed 157 people and prompted the European Union’s aviation safety regulator to suspend all flights in the bloc by Boeing 737 MAX planes. The cause of Sunday’s crash, which followed another disaster with a 737 MAX five months ago in Indonesia that killed 189 people, remains unknown.
Trump seemed concerned broadly that planes had become too complicated to manage.
“Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that such complexity created danger.
“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!” he wrote.
He did not refer specifically to Boeing or recent accidents, but his comments echoed an automation debate that partially lies at the center of a probe into the crash in Indonesia.
Investigators are examining the role of a software system designed to push the plane down, alongside airline training and repair standards.
Boeing says it plans to update the software in the coming weeks.
Trump unsuccessfully pushed early in his administration to privatize air traffic control. In January 2018 Trump touted that worldwide there were no fatal passenger jet crashes in 2017, the safest year on record.
U.S. Senators Mitt Romney and Elizabeth Warren called on the Federal Aviation Administration to temporarily ground Boeing’s 737 MAX 8. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Fox TV that the White House would be in “constant contact” with the FAA “to make determinations at an appropriate time.”
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