Less than 24 hours after the fatal crash involving 149 passengers and eight crew members, including two Nigerians, the African giant carrier, Ethiopian Airlines has grounded all Boeing 737-800MAX aircraft in its fleet.
The airline said that the entire fleet of the aircraft brand, which were supplied less than a year ago, would remain grounded until the conclusion of investigations on the immediate and remote causes of the crash, which occurred in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia barely six minutes after the aircraft departed from the airport en route Nairobi, Kenya.
The airline, however, said that it didn’t know the cause of the crash yet, but said it took the cautious step as a form of extra safety precaution.
The statement said: “Following the Tragic accident of ET 302/10 March B-737-8 MAX (ET-AVJ), Ethiopian Airlines has decided to ground all B-737-8 MAX fleet effective yesterday March 10, 2019 until further notice.
“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we had to decide to ground the particular fleet as extra safety precaution. Ethiopian Airlines will release further information as soon as it is available.”
Thirty-three nationalities, including two Nigerians, Professor Pius Adesanmi and Ambassador Abiodun Bashua, were among the casualties in the accident, which occurred on early Sunday morning.
Apart from Ethiopian Airlines, China’s aviation regulator and Cayman Airways have suspended their Boeing Co 737 MAX aircraft operations, following a deadly crash of one of the planes in Ethiopia.
The crash was the second of the 737 MAX, the latest version of Boeing’s workhorse narrowbody jet that first entered service in 2017.
In October, a 737 MAX 8 operated by Indonesian 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 in a statement it would notify airlines as to when they could resume flying the jets after contacting Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure flight safety.
“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 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.
The cause of the Indonesian crash is still being investigated. A preliminary report issued 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.
Chinese airlines have 96 737 MAX jets in service, the state company regulator said on Weibo.
Caijing, a Chinese state-run news outlet that covers finance and economics, said many flights scheduled to use 737 MAX planes would instead use the 737-800 models.
Western industry sources say China has been at pains in recent years to assert its independence as a safety regulator as it negotiates mutual safety standard recognition with regulators in the United States and Europe.
In 2017, it signed a mutual recognition deal with the FAA, but industry sources say it has struggled to gain approval from the FAA that would allow it to sell its C919 airliner to Western airlines.