Ethiopian Airlines recovers black box of crashed plane as China, Ethiopia suspend use of Boeing 737 MAX 8

Ethiopian Airlines recovers black box of crashed plane
Site of the crashed Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302.

Ethiopian Airlines on Monday confirmed it has successfully recovered the data and voice recorders on the crashed aircraft that killed all 157 aboard on Sunday. This is even as China’s aviation regulator on Monday grounded nearly 100 Boeing Co 737 MAX 8 aircraft operated by its airlines.

“After tedious search by the rescue and investigation team for the black box of a 737-Max 8 plane, Ethiopian Airlines announces that the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of ET302 have been Recovered.’’

The Nairobi-bound Boeing 737-8 MAX crashed near Bishoftu town, about 45 kilometers from the capital, Addis Ababa, just minutes from take-off from Bole International Airport, the airline said in a statement.

“Ethiopian has continued monitoring the situation closely with all stakeholders and is providing all the necessary support to the families of the deceased in its temporarily established family assistance centres in Addis Ababa and Nairobi Airports,” the statement added.

Earlier on Monday, Ethiopian Airlines announced its decision to suspend commercial operations on all Boeing 737-Max 8 aircraft.

In another development, Indonesia is considering helping Ethiopian authorities investigate the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft, an official said.

“We have proposed to the (Indonesian) Ministry of Transportation that we assist, but it hasn’t been decided yet as we’re still discussing it,” said Indriantono, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT).

The crash on Sunday was the second involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 in just over four months, after a flight operated by Indonesian budget carrier Lion Air plummeted into the Java Sea shortly after take-off on Oct. 29, killing 189 people.

The KNKT found evidence of technical errors in its preliminary report on the Lion Air crash.

Flight302 is the second crash of the 737 MAX 8, the latest version of Boeing’s workhorse narrow body jet that first entered service in 2017.

In October, 2018 a 737 MAX 8 operated by Indonesian budget carrier Lion Air crashed 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta on a domestic flight, killing all 189 passengers and crew on board.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said all Chinese airlines had to suspend their use of the 737 MAX 8 by 6 p.m. (1000 GMT).

The CAAC said it would notify airlines as to when they could resume flying the jets after contacting Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure flight safety.

“Given that two accidents both involved newly delivered Boeing 737-8 planes and happened during takeoff phase, they have some degree of similarity,” the CAAC said.

It added that the order was in line with its principle of zero-tolerance on safety hazards.

The 737 MAX 8 is sometimes referred to as the 737-8.

A Boeing spokesman declined to comment.

Chinese airlines have 96 737 MAX 8 jets in service, the state company regulator said on Weibo, including Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines.

Chinese aviation data firm Variflight said at least 29 international and domestic flights on Monday had been canceled and that airlines had swapped out the plane on 256 other flights that had been scheduled to use it.

China Eastern’s chairman, Liu Shaoyong, told financial publication Caixin on the sidelines of a parliament meeting in Beijing that it would only consider resuming 737 MAX 8 flights once Boeing issued a safety commitment for the jets.

And also to prove that there was no aircraft design link between the two crashes.

The cause of the Indonesian crash is still being investigated.

A preliminary report in November, before the cockpit voice recorder was recovered, focused on airline maintenance and training and the response of a Boeing anti-stall system to a recently replaced sensor but did not give a reason for the crash.

Ethiopian Airlines said it had grounded its 737 MAX 8 fleet until further notice as an “extra safety precaution” even though it did not know the cause of Sunday’s crash.

The airline has a remaining fleet of four of the aircraft, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

Cayman Airways said it had grounded both of its new 737 MAX 8 jets until it got more information.

But no other airlines or regulators said they were grounding the aircraft.

By the end of January, Boeing had delivered 350 of the 737 MAX family jets to customers, with another 4,661 on order.

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