Ethiopian airline crash fallout: China, Ethiopia suspend use of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft

Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines

In the aftermath of Sunday’s ill-fated crash of Ethiopian Airlines, China’s aviation regulator on Monday grounded nearly 100 Boeing Co 737 MAX 8 aircraft in its fleet.

An Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 bound for Nairobi crashed minutes after take-off on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board.

Following the crash, the Ethiopian Airlines promptly announced its decision to ground the rest of their carrier in its fleet of the jets.

The two Nigerians aboard the ill-fated flight were Canada-based professor of Literary Arts, Carleton University, Pius Adesanmi, and a former UN and African Union (AU) Deputy Joint Special Representative in Darfur, Sudan.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted the airlines as confirming the crash was the second of the 737 MAX 8, the latest version of Boeing’s workhorse narrowbody jet that first entered service in 2017.

In October, 2018 a 737 MAX 8 operated by Indonesian budget carrier, Lion Air, crashed 13 minutes after take-off from Jakarta on a domestic flight, killing all 189 passengers and crew on board.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said all Chinese airlines had to suspend their use of the 737 MAX 8 by 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) on Monday.

The aircraft is the latest version of Boeing’s workhorse narrowbody that entered service in 2017.

The CAAC said it would notify airlines as to when they could resume flying the jets after contacting Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure flight safety for passengers.

“Given that two accidents both involved newly delivered Boeing 737-8 planes and happened during take-off phase, they have some degree of similarity,” the CAAC said.

It added that the order was in line with its principle of zero-tolerance on safety hazards.

The 737 MAX 8 is sometimes referred to as the 737-8.

NAN reported a Boeing spokesperson declined to comment.

Chinese airlines have 96 of the 737 MAX 8 jets in service, the state company regulator said on Weibo, including Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines.

Chinese aviation data firm, Variflight, said at least 29 international and domestic flights were canceled on Monday, with airlines having to swap the plane on 256 other flights earlier scheduled to use it.

China Eastern’s Chairman, Liu Shaoyong, told financial publication Caixin on the sidelines of a parliament meeting in Beijing it would only consider resuming 737 MAX 8 flights once Boeing issued a safety commitment for the jets.

Also, to prove there was no aircraft design link between the two crashes.

The cause of the Indonesian crash is yet to be known, as investigations are still ongoing.

A preliminary report in November, before the cockpit voice recorder was recovered, focused on airline maintenance and training and the response of a Boeing anti-stall system to a recently replaced sensor but did not give a reason for the crash.

Ethiopian Airlines said it had grounded its 737 MAX 8 fleet until further notice as an “extra safety precaution” even though it did not know the cause of Sunday’s crash.

The airline has a remaining fleet of four of the aircraft, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

Cayman Airways said it had grounded both of its new 737 MAX 8 jets until it got more information.

But, no other airlines or regulators said they were grounding the aircraft.

By the end of January, Boeing had delivered 350 of the 737 MAX family jets to customers, with another 4,661 on order. (Reuters/NAN)

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