China, Ethiopia, Cayman Islands Stop Flying The Boeing 737 MAX 8

A sad day
A piece of debris from the crashed Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 (Photo: Reuters)

China, Ethiopia and the British overseas territory of the Cayman Islands have become the first places in the world to forbid their airlines from flying the new Boeing 737 MAX 8 narrow-body jetliner after one of these planes crashed inexplicably yesterday on a flight from Ethiopia to neighboring Kenya.

More countries are expected to follow suit.

The immediate and surprising step taken by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) today is significant because the 96 Boeing 737 MAX 8s flown by domestic Chinese airlines account for almost a third of all the 350 operational MAX 8s currently in service worldwide.

Among Chinese domestic carriers flying the MAX 8 are China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Air China, and Hainan Airlines, which are the top four airlines in terms of passengers carried every year.

CAAC ordered all Chinese domestic airlines to suspend the commercial operations of all Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft by 6:00 p.m. local time (1000 GMT) today, just one day after a deadly crash of a 737 MAX 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines on a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya.

At least 29 international and domestic flights in China of MAX 8s on Monday were canceled. Local airlines had transferred passengers on 256 other flights to other planes.

China Eastern chairman Liu Shaoyong said the airline will only consider resuming 737 MAX 8 flights once Boeing issued a safety committee for the jets and prove there was is aircraft design link between the crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Ethiopian Airlines grounded its four remaining 737 MAX 8s until further notice as an "extra safety precaution." Cayman Airways grounded both of its new 737 MAX 8 jets until it receives more information about the Ethiopian crash. Singapore Airlines, whose subsidiary SilkAir operates the 737 MAX, said it was closely monitoring the situation, but its planes continued to operate as scheduled.

The crash killed all 157 on board aboard Flight ET302, which fell from the sky a scant six minutes into the flight. Ethiopian Air revealed the pilot had radioed the plane was experiencing a technical problem and requested permission to return to Addis Ababa. That was the pilot's last transmission.

Media has been flooded with reports of the eerie similarities regarding the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX-8 to a similar aircraft operated by Lion Air. Lion Air Flight 610 crashed on Oct. 29, 2018, in the sea off Jakarta, Indonesia 13 minutes after take-off, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Both planes were still climbing to their cruising altitude when they plunged into the ground.

Aviation analysts said the aircraft involved in both deadly crashes were brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8s with less than a year in service. Both ill-fated planes suffered their fatal accidents during the first few minutes of flight.

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