China and Ethiopia have ordered their domestic airlines to ground Boeing 737 Max 8 jets following another deadly crash of one of the planes, which has raised safety questions about the model developed by US aerospace giant Boeing.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued a statement on Monday and urged its airlines to suspend the commercial operations of all Boeing 737 MAX jets by 6 p.m.
An Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX en route from Addis Ababa to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi crashed a few minutes after take-off on Sunday, killing all 157 people, mostly foreign nationals, on board.
The cause of the crash is still unknown; however, the pilot had reported difficulties and asked to return to the Ethiopian capital before the incident, the airline said.
The tragedy was the second of its kind in less than six months.
In October 2018, a Lion Air Boeing 737 crashed into the sea off Indonesia’s island of Java, only minutes after taking off from the capital Jakarta. The crash claimed the lives of all 189 passengers and crew on board.
Referring to the Boeing 737 Max 8 as a Boeing 737-8, the CAAC said, “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 Chinese regulator added that suspending operation of the fleet was “in line with our principle of zero tolerance for safety hazards and strict control of safety risks.”
The CAAC said it would contact Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration before restoring flights of the aircraft.
In a similar move, Ethiopia’s state-owned carrier released a statement on Twitter on Monday to announce its decision to ground all B-737-8 MAX fleet.
“Following the tragic accident of ET 302 … Ethiopian Airlines has decided to ground all B-737-8 MAX fleet effective yesterday, March 10, until further notice,” the statement read.
Ethiopia searching for clues
In Ethiopia, investigators have started combing the wreckage of the ill-fated plane to find clues to the cause of the crash.
“A committee comprising of Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and Ethiopian Transport Authority has been set up to carry out the investigations,” Ethiopian Airlines said.
Boeing said Sunday said it was “deeply saddened” about the tragic deaths of those aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, and that it would provide technical assistance to the ongoing investigations.
The US National Transportation Safety Board said it would send a team of investigators to the crash site to assist in the investigation into the fatal crash.
In addition, Canada, which lost 18 citizens in the tragedy, said consular officials were “immediately deployed” to Addis Ababa to establish the facts.