Aviation authorities in several countries are grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 airplanes pending the results of investigations and remedial measures after an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed Sunday, killing all 157 people aboard. The plane was the second new Boeing 737 Max 8 jet to crash in less than six months.
Ethiopia’s civil aviation authorities initially took a “wait and see” stance following the tragic crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 but decided to ground all 737 Max 8 planes in the country after China announced it was suspending all flights of that Boeing model.
“There were certain similarities in the fact that two air crashes were newly delivered Boeing 737-8 aircraft, and they both occurred in the takeoff phase,” the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration said in a statement, according to The Washington Post.
The first Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft to crash was Lion Air flight 610. That airplane departed from Jakarta, Indonesia, on Oct. 29 but crashed into the Java Sea minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 people aboard. Like the pilots on Ethiopian Airlines 302, the Lion Air pilots struggled to keep the plane in the air as it automatically took anti-stall maneuvers by going into a nosedive.
The Ethiopian crash remains under investigation and details of the airplane’s behavior have yet to be revealed by the “black box” data recorders, but the Lion Air crash investigations found that the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft took more than two dozen nosedives in its 11-minute flight. Pilots fought unsuccessfully to override the airplane’s errant safety system.
Cayman Airways and Indonesia’s national airlines both suspended Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, and Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Authority said it would not license the use of that model aircraft in the country until the problems are found and fixed. There are no Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in use there, but Vietjet Air has 100 Boeing 737s on order, including 20 Max 8 models.
Other countries grounding the Boeing jets are the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Oman, and Turkey. There are nearly 500 Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in use worldwide, including some 74 in use by domestic airlines.
Oddly, Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stood by the safety of the 737 Max 8. In a statement Monday, Boeing said, “The Federal Aviation Administration is not mandating any further action at this time, and based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”
Meanwhile, in a global advisory, the FAA said “External reports are drawing similarities between this accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident on Oct. 29, 2018. However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions.”
Despite these statements, a growing number of U.S. Senators and other government officials are demanding the federal government ground the Boeing airplanes.