ON SUNDAY, Ethiopia flag carrier Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa ploughed into a field near Tulu Fara village some 60 kilometers southeast of the Ethiopian capital.
The fatal accident happened only six minutes after the months-old Boeing 737 MAX 8 had taken off from Bole International Airport. 149 passengers and eight crew members were on the ill-fated flight.
Kenya and Ethiopia had set up a joint disaster response team to look into the incident. Although the cause of the disaster is not yet clear as investigations are still ongoing, CNN quoted the airline as saying that the pilot had reported difficulties and had asked to return to Addis Ababa.
The disaster, the second involving the new aircraft in the last four months, put the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in the limelight once again.
In October last year, Lion Air flight JT610 crashed into the sea off the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, killing all 189 onboard. Lion Air had previously said it was very proud to be the first in Indonesia to deploy the plane. The airline group had ordered as many as 218 units of the Boeing 737 Max 8.
Ethiopian Airlines has since released a statement confirming it would be grounding all Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet until further notice.
Accident Bulletin no. 5 Issued on March 11, 2019 at 07:08 AM Local Time pic.twitter.com/rwxa51Fgij
— Ethiopian Airlines (@flyethiopian) March 11, 2019
Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air are not the only airlines with the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in its fleet. Carriers in China, Singapore, and the Cayman Islands also have the jets in their fleet. In fact, Chinese airlines have 96 737 MAX 8 jets in service.
Following the incident, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) ordered its airlines to suspend the use of the aircraft. It added it would notify airlines as to when they could resume flying the jets after contacting Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration to ensure flight safety.
Flights scheduled to use the Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes would instead use the Boeing 737-800 models.
Cayman Airways, which also flies the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, also announced it would ground the planes until more information was received. Its president and chief executive Fabian Whorms said the airline was “putting the safety of our passengers and crew first”.
Singapore Airlines’ regional arm SilkAir, on the other hand, said its Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes are operating as scheduled but it is “closely monitoring the situation.”
Meanwhile, Malaysian flag carrier Malaysia Airlines which has ordered 50 of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets with 25 to be delivered next year, is “studying the various options.”