ADDIS ABABA/BEIJING (Reuters) – China, Indonesia and Ethiopia grounded their Boeing Co 737 MAX 8 fleets on Monday while investigators found the black box from a crash that killed 157 people in the second disaster involving that airplane model in six months.
Airplane engine parts are seen at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
The Ethiopian Airlines jet bound for Nairobi came down minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all on board. The victims came from 33 nations and included 22 United Nations’ staff.
The discovery of the black box with both the cockpit voice recorder and digital flight data, reported by Ethiopian state TV, should shed light on the cause of the crash.
At the scene, men in Red Cross jackets picked through the dirt, putting items in black paper bags, while investigators hunted for the black box voice recorders.
“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the crash, we had to decide to ground the particular fleet as extra safety precaution,” Ethiopian Airlines said. It has four other 737 MAX 8 jets, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
The 737 line is the world’s best selling modern passenger aircraft and viewed as one of the industry’s most reliable.
CHINA’S ‘ZERO TOLERANCE’
China on Monday also ordered its airlines to suspend operations of their 737 MAX 8 jets by 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) following the second crash of a Boeing 737 MAX jet since one run by Indonesia’s Lion Air went down in October.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said it would notify airlines when they could resume flying the jets, after contacting Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“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, adding the step was in line with its principle of zero tolerance of safety hazards. The 737 MAX 8 is sometimes referred to as the 737-8.
Indonesia also said it would temporarily ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft for inspection.
In October, a 737 MAX 8 operated by budget carrier Lion Air crashed 13 minutes after take-off from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on a domestic flight, killing all 189 on board.
Cayman Airways sad it had grounded both of its new 737 MAX 8 jets temporarily too, while India announced a safety review.
A senior U.S. official said it was too early to tell if there was any direct connection between the two accidents but assessing that was a priority for investigators.
By January-end, Boeing had delivered 350 of the 737 MAX family jets to customers, with 4,661 more on order.
Boeing shares slid almost 10 percent in early trading on Monday. The move, if maintained through normal trading hours, would be the biggest fall in Boeing’s stock in nearly two decades, halting a surge that has seen it triple in value in just over three years to a record high of $446 last week.
Ethiopia’s parliament declared Monday a day of mourning.
A global summit in Nairobi opened with a moment of silence as some wept for the U.N. members killed in one of the deadliest aviation accidents in the organization’s history.
The dead include a 28-year-old Norwegian Red Cross worker, three Austrian aid workers on their way to Zanzibar, a Nigerian-Canadian professor known for mentoring young colleagues, and an Italian archaeologist, employers and foreign ministries said.
The pilot Yared Getachew, who was a joint Ethiopian-Kenyan national, had a “commendable record” and more than 8,000 hours of flying experience, Ethiopian Airlines said.
Kenyan authorities had managed to contact the families of 25 of the 32 Kenyan passengers, cabinet secretary for transport James Macharia told journalists at the airport on Monday.
Additional reporting by Jamie Freed in Singapore, Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta, Katherine Houreld in Hereward Holland in Nairobi, Josh Horwitz in Shanghai, Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne