Ethiopian Airlines crash: Boeing 737 Max 8 grounded in Ethiopia and China, Indonesia conducts extra inspections

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 passenger jet to Nairobi crashed early on Sunday, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew members on board.
A Boeing 737 Max 8 passenger airplane at the Boeing Zhoushan completion centre in Zhoushan, China.
A Boeing 737 Max 8 passenger airplane at the Boeing Zhoushan completion centre in Zhoushan, China.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP, BLOOMBERG) - Ethiopian Airlines said on Monday (March 11) it had grounded its Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet after a crash that killed 149 passengers and eight crew.

“Following the tragic accident of ET302... Ethiopian Airlines has decided to ground all B-737-8 Max fleet effective yesterday, March 10, until further notice,” the state-owned carrier said in a statement released on Twitter.

Separately, China grounded its entire domestic fleet of Boeing Co 737 Max 8 planes after the model crashed in Africa on Sunday, as scrutiny intensified on the United States manufacturer’s best-selling jet.

China ordered its carriers to ground all 96 of their aircraft involving the model by 6pm local time. 

Elsewhere, Indonesia’s air safety regulator said it is discussing the possibility of grounding the Boeing planes and South Korea began a special inspection of the aircraft.

Indonesian state airliner Garuda Indonesia meanwhile carried out additional inspections on its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. 

“We continuously run (an) Extra Inspection Procedure on several systems that may possibly cause an accident,” said Garuda Indonesia president director I. Gusti Ngurah Askhara Danadiputra in a statement on Sunday, reported Tempo.

Inspection of the airspeed and altitude system, flight control system, and stall management system revealed no faults and they were in good condition.

 
 
 

“We have instantly coordinated the matter with Transportation Ministry’s Airworthiness and Aircraft Operation Directorate (DKUPPU) for further prevention efforts,” Mr Ashkara said.

Singapore Airlines, whose regional arm SilkAir operates the 737 Max 8, said it was monitoring the situation closely, but its planes continued to operate as scheduled.

Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 plunged to the ground minutes after leaving Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi, Kenya, killing all 157 people on board in what was the second deadly accident in five months involving the model.

A blanket grounding in China is a further blow to Boeing’s reputation – and a potential threat to the Chicago-based plane-maker’s finances.

Chinese carriers accounted for about 20 per cent of 737 Max 8 deliveries worldwide through January, according to the company’s website.

China Southern Airlines has 16 of the aircraft, with another 34 on order, according to data through January on Boeing’s website. China Eastern Airlines has 13, while Air China has 14, Boeing says.

Other Chinese airlines to have bought the Max 8 include Hainan Airlines and Shandong Airlines, the data shows.

The single-aisle plane accounts for almost one-third of Boeing’s operating profit and is poised to generate about US$30 billion (S$40.78 billion) in annual revenue as factory output rises to a 57-jet monthly pace this year, according to Bloomberg Intelligence estimates.

The disaster in Ethiopia followed the crash of a Lion Air 737 Max 8 into the Java Sea off the coast of Indonesia on Oct 29. A preliminary report into that disaster, which killed 189 passengers and crew, indicated that pilots struggled to maintain control following an equipment malfunction.

Indonesia’s transportation safety committee said on Monday that it will discuss the possibility of grounding Boeing 737 Max 8 jets operated by the nation’s airlines.

Jet Airways India and SpiceJet, two Indian airlines that use the 737 Max 8 jet, and the country’s regulators have asked Boeing for information following the Ethiopia crash.

 
 
 

Cayman Airways, the flag carrier airline of the Cayman Islands, says it is suspending operations of both its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, effective Monday, “until more information is received".

A Boeing representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Boeing earlier said it was preparing to send a technical team to assist the accident investigation of the Ethiopian Airlines plane, which was delivered new in November to Africa’s biggest carrier.

Calls to the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s aviation safety office and administrative office before regular business hours went unanswered.

Caijing earlier reported the grounding of the model.