Ethiopian Airlines has grounded its fleet of new Boeing 737-800 MAX aircraft after flight ET 302 came down shortly after take-off, killing all 157 on board.
The aircraft had just taken off from capital Addis Ababa en route to Kenyan capital Nairobi when authorities lost contact. A search and rescue operation is under way. All 157 people on board were killed, including seven Britons and one Irish national.
In a statement issued on Monday morning (March 11), Ethiopian confirmed it had grounded all its Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft “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,” said the airline.
“Ethiopian Airlines will release further information as soon as it is available.”
The aircraft’s digital flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were recovered from the crash site on Monday, which will give investigators a better insight into what caused the aircraft to crash.
The aircraft was one of 30 ordered by Ethiopian as part of its expansion plans and underwent a “rigorous first maintenance check” just a month ago, the BBC reports.
Sunday’s crash follows that of Lion Air flight JT 610 last October, which nosedived into the Java Sea shortly after taking off from Indonesian capital Jakarta. All 189 people on board were killed.
The incident was the first major crash involving a Boeing 737-8 aircraft, the aircraft having only entered service for commercial use in May 2017.
Initial investigations into the Lion Air crash found an anti-stall system forced the aircraft’s nose down despite the best efforts of the pilots to pull up.
Following the Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday, China’s aviation regulator ordered all Chinese airlines ground their 737-8 MAX jets, thought to be nearly 100. Indonesia has also ordered its airlines to ground any 737-8 MAX aircraft. South Korea is understood to be carrying out an emergency safety inspection of two 737-8 MAX aircraft operating in the country.
Cayman Airways, meanwhile, has grounded its two 737-8 MAX aircraft.
In a statement, Boeing said it was “deeply saddened” by the Ethiopian Airlines crash, confirming a 737-8 MAX aircraft was involved.
“A Boeing technical team will be travelling to the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and US National Transportation Safety Board.”
Ethiopian has said the pilot reported difficulties after take-off and had requested a return to Addis Ababa.
Chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam, who visited the crash site on Sunday, said the airline “wasn’t ruling anything out” as investigations into the crash got under way.