Ethiopian Airlines crash: Airlines ground Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet

Boeing postpones launch of its 777X model after 157 people are killed on Flight ET302

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Airlines across the world grounded their fleets of the Boeing 737 Max 8, the plane involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash which killed 157 on Sunday.

Ethiopia Airlines announced they had grounded all Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft on Monday, as they marked a national day of mourning.

China ordered domestic airlines to suspend commercial operations of the plane, a day after the flight to Nairobi crashed minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa.

A FlyDubai spokeswoman said the company remained confident in the airworthiness of its fleet but was in touch with Boeing. Flydubai has ordered 251 737 Max planes, of which 14 have been delivered.

It was the second incident involving a 737 Max 8 in recent months, following on from the Indonesia Lion Air flight that crashed after take-off from Jakarta in October, killing all 189 people on board.

China's Civil Aviation Administration said domestic airlines had until 6pm local time (2pm UAE) to ground all 737 Max 8 aircraft.

Operation of the model will only resume after "confirming the relevant measures to effectively ensure flight safety", the administration said in a statement.

The aviation authority said it will also contact the US Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing.

The Kenya-bound Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 crashed minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all everyone on board, including eight from China.

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

China is an important market for the US aircraft company, accounting for about one-fifth of worldwide deliveries of Boeing 737 Max models.

The company has delivered 76 of the models to Chinese airlines, which have ordered another 104, according to data from the aircraft maker's website updated through January.

Boeing and joint venture partner Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) operate a plant in the eastern city of Zhoushan that completes the interiors of 737 Max planes for Chinese airlines.

The factory delivered its first Max 8 plane to Air China in December.

Indonesia’s transportation safety committee said on Monday it will discuss the possibility of grounding its Boeing 737 Max jets operated by the nation’s airlines. In India, Jet Airways,  SpiceJet and the country’s regulators have asked Boeing for information following the Ethiopia crash.

Cayman Airways, the flag carrier airline of the Cayman Islands, says it is suspending operations of both its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft effective March 11 “until more information is received”.

Meanwhile, Boeing said it has postponed the debut of its 777X model and related media events scheduled for this week because of the accident. There is no change to the plane's schedule or progress, Boeing said.

The Ethiopian jetliner left Addis Ababa at 8.38am local time, and contact was lost six minutes later, the airline said in a statement.

There were people from 35 nations on board, including 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians and eight Americans. The United Nations, which is hosting an environmental conference this week in Nairobi, said it lost 19 staff members in the crash.

The pilot of the ET302 reported problems shortly after take-off and was cleared to return to the airport, said the airline’s chief executive officer, Tewolde GebreMariam.

The 737 Max 8 had not had any apparent mechanical issues on an earlier flight from Johannesburg, he said.