A Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane operated by Ethiopian Airlines, bound for the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi, crashed soon after taking off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at around 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, killing all 157 people on board. According to Ethiopian Airlines, contact with the plane was lost at 8:44 a.m., just a few minutes after it took off.
The latest crash is the second one involving a Boeing 737 MAX 8, a new model of commercial passenger aircraft, in the last few months.
In October 2018, a Lion Air plane crashed into the sea just minutes after taking off from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. All 189 passengers onboard were killed.The black box retrieved after the crash revealed that the plane's sensors had been displaying incorrect speed and altitude readings.
"Generally, it takes a very long time [to complete a] crash investigation, to look at the cause of [the] accident and come up with some kind of conclusion," Vasigh told Radio Sputnik Loud & Clear hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.
"But unfortunately, we [have] had two major crashes [involving Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft]. At this time, we don't know if the two crashes are related and caused by the fact that these are brand new aircraft or [if they are] some kind of independent accidents. At this time, no one is 100 percent sure that 737, at this time, is safe. And that's the reason why many airlines have voluntarily grounded their fleet of 737," Vasigh added.
Following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, the Chinese government ordered all of the country's airlines to ground their Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets.
China Southern Airlines Co. has 16 of the aircraft, with another 34 on order, according to data on Boeing's website updated through January, Sputnik previously reported. China Eastern Airlines Corp. has 13 Boeing 737 MAX jets, while Air China Ltd. has 14. Other Chinese airlines that have purchased the MAX include Hainan Airlines Holdings Co. and Shandong Airlines Co.
"When you are introducing a new aircraft, generally, you may [witness] at the beginning some accident and incidents. When Boeing [first] introduced the 787 dreamliner, they [the planes] had a problem with the battery system. The batteries caught on fire, and Boeing had to ground the entire aircraft. Fortunately, those incidents did not lead to fatal accidents. Both of these [recent] accidents involved fatalities and the loss of human life, but I am sure that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing are investigating the cause of the accident to prevent [similar ones] in the future," Vasigh told Sputnik.
In a recent statement to The Hill, the FAA said they are working with international civil aviation authorities to glean information regarding the Ethiopian Airlines incident.
"An FAA team is on-site with the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] in its investigation of Ethiopia Flight 302. We are collecting data and keeping in contact with international civil aviation authorities as information becomes available," the agency said.
"Today, the FAA will issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) for Boeing 737 MAX operators. The FAA continuously assesses and oversees the safety performance of US commercial aircraft. If we identify an issue that affects safety, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action."
"Boeing will be significantly involved in the investigation, and many of these airlines around the world are members of FAA or European Associations, [such as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency], " Vasigh told Sputnik, noting that both aviation regulators and manufacturers are involved in investigating plane crashes.
According to US aircraft manufacturer Boeing President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg, the company is confident in the safety of the 737 MAX.
"We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX and in the work of the men and women who designed and built it," Muilenburg said in Monday's statement, Sputnik previously reported. "Boeing has delivered more than 370 737 MAX airplanes to 47 customers. Since its certification and entry into service, the MAX family has completed hundreds of thousands of flights safely."