China, Ethiopia and Cayman Ground 737 MAX 8 (Update)
As concerns rise over the safety of Boeing's 737 MAX series, China, Ethiopia and the Cayman Islands have grounded their MAX aircraft pending further investigation. China ordered all its airlines to ground their Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft by 6 p.m. Monday following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on Sunday. In a letter to the airlines, which have dozens of the type, China's Civil Aviation Administration said it took the action “in view of the fact that the two air crashes were newly delivered Boeing 737-8 aircraft” and had “certain similarities,” according to a report in the Guardian.
The British paper said Cayman Airlines had also grounded its two MAX aircraft. The FAA has not confirmed whether it's considering a grounding. "The FAA is closely monitoring developments in the Ethiopian Flight 302 crash early this morning," the agency said in a statement. "We are in contact with the State Department and plan to join the NTSB in its assistance with Ethiopian civil aviation authorities to investigate the crash."
All 157 people aboard the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 were killed early Sunday when the aircraft crashed shortly after taking off from Bole International Airport in the capital of Addis Abada. News agencies reported that the aircraft was en route to Nairobi and lost contact with air traffic control about six minutes after takeoff.
The crash follows the loss of another 737 MAX in Indonesia that killed 189 people last October, a crash that's still under investigation. Both aircraft were relatively new airplanes, having been delivered within the last year. An airline spokesperson told CNN that the Ethiopian crash victims are believed to be of 32 different nationalities and included Kenyans, Canadians and at least eight Americans.
The flight took off in good weather, officials said, but The New York Times reported that the aircraft's vertical speed was unstable, according to data published by FlightRadar24. Tewolde GebreMariam, the chief executive officer of Ethiopian Airlines, told news reporters Sunday that the flight crew had been given clearance to return to the airport in Addis Ababa after reporting difficulties.
The Lion Air flight that crashed on Oct. 29, 2018, in Indonesia encountered similar pitch and vertical speed anomalies. Investigators are probing whether the MAX's unique autotrim system, called MCAS for Maneuvering Characteristic Augmentation System, may have played a role in the accident. MCAS automatically rolls in nose-down trim in certain flight conditions. Boeing had been criticized for not making operators aware of its existence on the new aircraft.