China on Monday said it has ordered domestic airlines to suspend commercial operation of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet after an Ethiopian Airlines plane of that make crashed on Sunday, killing all 157 on board. The Civil Aviation Administration of China said that it would notify airlines on when they could resume flying the jets, Reuters reported.
The authority referred to the crash of an Indonesian air carrier Lion Air jet in October last year, which also crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 passengers on board. “Given that two accidents both involved newly delivered Boeing 737-8 planes and happened during take-off phase, they have some degree of similarity,” the authority said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said eight Chinese were on board the crashed Ethiopian Airlines plane, Xinhua reported. “We extend our profound condolences to the victims and deep sympathy to the bereaved families,” he said. Lu added that the Chinese embassy in Ethiopia contacted the country’s authorities immediately.
He said Beijing wants the authorities to find out the cause of the crash as soon as possible and keep China updated.
Indian carrier SpiceJet and Jet Airways have the aircraft in its fleet. Jet Airways on Monday clarified that while it has five such planes, the airline is “currently not flying” any of them, PTI reported. “The airline is in contact with the manufacturer and the regulator in context of this development, and remains committed to implementing all directives or advisories that may be published by those authorised,” Jet Airways said.
SpiceJet is yet to make a public statement about its fleet.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian Airlines issued a statement on Twitter saying that it has decided to ground all Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft following the crash. “Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we had to decide to ground the fleet as an extra safety precaution,” it said.
Cayman Airways, which also uses the aircraft, said it will ground the planes until the investigation into the matter is completed, The Guardian reported. Fabian Whorms, Cayman Airways president and chief executive, said the airline was “putting the safety of our passengers and crew first”.
More than 300 Boeing 737-MAX aircraft are in operation across the globe and orders for 5,000 more have been placed since 2017.
Other air carriers, however, told The Guardian that they will not be grounding the aircraft. Fiji Airways said it had “full confidence in the airworthiness of our fleet”.
BOC Aviation, an aircraft leasing company based in Singapore, Virgin Australia, Air Niugini, said they had no intention to ground the aircraft. A spokesperson for Korean Air, which ordered 30 of the aircraft, said it is examining the situation. “For now we do not have any changes in our existing orders for Boeing 737 Max 8s,” Korean Airlines said.
Four Indians were also among those killed in the crash, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday. The aircraft had taken off from the Ethiopian capital at 8.38 am local time (11.08 am Indian time), but lost contact at 8.44 am near Bishoftu, 60 km southeast of Addis Ababa. The flight was going to Nairobi in Kenya. There were people of 33 nationalities on board.