China grounded all its Boeing 737 Max 8 planes following the deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash

China grounded all its Boeing 737 Max 8 planes following the deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash

China’s Aviation Authority said on Monday morning local time that it has issued a notice to ground all Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes used by domestic airlines in response to the recent Ethiopian Airlines crash which killed 157 people.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash occurred six minutes after takeoff on Sunday aboard a Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane. This is the second crash involving a Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane in recent months — in October, Lion Air flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea 12 minutes after takeoff.

According to a statement posted to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC)’s website, the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash have certain similarities that have caused concern over the Boeing aircraft.

The statement added that both incidents involved newly delivered Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircrafts and both occurred in the takeoff phase of the flight.

The notice, issued at 9 a.m. local time, would suspend commercial operation of the aircraft until 6 p.m. on Monday. Chinese state media said the country operates 97 MAX planes domestically.

Ethiopian Airlines on Monday morning local time also grounded all of its MAX 8 aircrafts. South Korea’s transportation ministry said Monday afternoon it would also be conducting an emergency safety inspection on two of its MAX 8 planes.

In an email, a spokesperson for Boeing declined to comment on the specifics surrounding China’s decision, but said: “a Boeing technical team will be travelling to the crash site [in Ethiopia] to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.”

A spokesperson for Boeing China told Business Insider: “Safety is our number one priority and we are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved. The investigation is in its early stages, but at this point, based on the information available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”

Sunday’s crash has called the Boeing 737 MAX 8 safety into question

National Transportation Safety Committee investigator Nurcahyo Utomo holds a model of an airplane during a press conference on the committee’s preliminary findings on their investigation on the crash of Lion Air flight 610, in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Associated Press

157 people, including 149 passengers and 8 crew, died aboard the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302 to Nairobi on Sunday morning. There were no survivors.

The flight crashed at 8:44 a.m. on Sunday morning near the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometers southeast of the capital Addis Ababa.

The flight’s captain was Yared Getachew who had more than 8,000 cumulative flight hours, the airline said. The flight’s first officer was Ahmed Nur Mohammod Nur who had just 200 hours. It’s unclear how many of the pilots’ flight hours were in the Boeing 737 MAX 8.

The brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8, registration ET-AVJ, was just delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in November 2018.

According to the airline, the aircraft underwent a rigorous “first check maintenance” on February 4 and had flown back to Addis Ababa from Johannesburg, South Africa earlier in the morning.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. However, flight tracking website Flightradar24 detected that the flight had shown “unstable vertical speed” before crashing.

In October, a different Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane belonging to Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board. The black box was recovered from the crash, which showed that the two pilots battled to stay in the air and the difficulties they faced in dealing with what may have been a rogue automated system.

According to the New York Times, data recovered was also consistent with Indonesian investigators’ main lead: that a system Boeing installed on its 737 MAX planes called the “maneuvering characteristics augmentation system,” or MCAS, designed to prevent the nose from getting too high and causing a stall, actually forced it down because of incorrect data from sensors on the fuselage.

Lion Air Flight 610 was repeatedly pushed into a dive position most likely because of the automated system’s malfunctioning sensors, a fault that began moments after it took off from Jakarta en route to Bali, The Times reported.

The plane had reportedly encountered a similar issue on a flight the previous day. It is unclear if the pilots had the proper training to deal with the system malfunction they encountered. The first batch of the brand-new Boeing aircrafts first took flight in 2016.

Boeing’s most recent reports indicate that 350 MAX planes have been delivered to airlines around the world, including to airlines in the US, Mexico, Canada, and China. Another 4,661 have been placed on order.

Southwest Airlines, which operates several MAX planes, responded to fears on Twitter on Sunday, saying that it had operated “approximately 31,000 flights utilizing the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft” and would not be waiving fare rules to customers looking to rebook.

United Airlines, which operates 14 Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes in its fleet but no MAX 8’s, also responded to concerns on Twitter, assuring its customers that its pilots were properly trained to fly the MAX 9 safely.

Adam Bienkov, Christian Edwards, and Reuters contributed to this report.

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