The crash of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 in a rural area southeast of Addis Ababa, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew members on board was shocking, especially after another Boeing 737 MAX 8 went down in the Java Sea just after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia, in October, killing all 189 aboard.
"It's almost unheard of," said John Cox, a senior crash investigator and former airline pilot, cited by CNBC. Cox and others warned that it is early in the crash investigation and there is no indication yet whether the two crashes were caused by the same factors.
Chinese airlines grounded all their Boeing 737 MAX jets following the request from the country's aviation regulator. According to Bloomberg, China Southern Airlines Co. has 16 of the aircraft, with another 34 on order, according to data on Boeing’s website updated through January. China Eastern Airlines Corp. has 13, while Air China Ltd. has 14, Boeing says. Other Chinese airlines to have bought the Max include Hainan Airlines Holdings Co. and Shandong Airlines Co., the data show.
Cayman Airways also grounded its two Boeing 737 MAX planes until more information about the crash emerges. Its CEO Fabian Whorms said that the airline stands by "our commitment to putting the safety of our passengers and crew first by maintaining complete and undoubtable safe operations."
Ethiopian Airlines later also released a statement saying that it had decided to ground all Boeing 737 MAX planes.
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
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. It is also said it is postponing the “external debut” of its 777X model and related media events scheduled for this week because of the accident. There is no change to the plane’s schedule or progress, Boeing spokesmen said following the announcement.
The Boeing 737 MAX has been flying for less than two years and is a best-seller for the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer. According to company data, Boeing has delivered 350 MAX jets to airlines around the world since May 2017, while another 4,661 were on order as of January.
The Boeing 737 MAX is flown by Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines and is also in the fleets of Icelandair, Xiamen Airlines and Fiji Airways.
"Our heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the passengers and employees on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302," Southwest said in a statement.
Dennis Tajer, a Boeing 737 pilot and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American’s pilots, said the airline's pilots met with Boeing staff following the Lion Air crash and that the pilots had not been informed of the new system before that crash. "We don't fly airplanes we don't feel safe on," he said, noting that the pilots have all the information they need.
American Airlines emphasised in their statement that they are confident both in the Boeing 737 MAX 8, of which it operates 24, and the crew that flies them. Southwest also recently added the angle-of-attack information to primary flight displays on these aircraft "as an additional control" after the October crash.
Meanwhile, just over four months have passed since another Boeing 737 MAX 8, operated by Indonesian Lion Air, crashed into the Java Sea shortly after departing from the airport. The accident claimed the lives of 189 people. The black box retrieved after the crash revealed that the sensors of the plane had been showing incorrect speed and altitude readings.