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China grounds Max 8 planes after crash

By Wang Keju | China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-12 08:44

A Boeing 737 Max 8 in test on Jan 29, 2016. [Photo/VCG]

Civil aviation authorities told domestic airlines on Monday to ground nearly 100 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, more than a quarter of the total in operation worldwide, after one of the planes operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed on Sunday.

All 157 people on board the aircraft from Addis Ababa to Nairobi died, including eight Chinese nationals, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday. The tragedy follows the crash of a Lion Air Max 8 plane that went down over the Java Sea in October, killing 189 people.

"Considering the two accidents took place when newly delivered Boeing 737 Max 8s went down just minutes after taking off, they have some degree of similarity," the Civil Aviation Administration of China said in a statement on Monday.

Based on its management principle of zero-tolerance for safety hazards, the administration grounded all Chinese Boeing 737 Max 8 jets as of 6 pm Monday. The statement said it would issue further notices after consulting with the US Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing.

There are 96 737 Max 8 jets in service with domestic airlines, including Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines, the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission said.

After the notice was issued, at least 29 flights were canceled on Monday, and 256 others that were to use the Max 8 jets were switched to other aircraft, according to data provider VariFlight.

Li Jian, deputy head of the administration, told Chinese media on Monday that two accidents occurred with the same aircraft model within 130 days, putting great pressure on the civil aviation authorities. "We are faced with uncertainty of whether the pilots dare to fly them and whether they can fly," he said.

Other countries' airlines have also grounded the Max 8, including Ethiopian Airlines and Caribbean carrier Cayman Airways.

In a statement on Sunday, Boeing said a technical team would be traveling to the crash site to provide technical assistance.

Li Xiaojin, a professor of aviation economics at Civil Aviation University in Tianjin, said it's reasonable and justified for regulators to ground the jets. "The total of 96 Boeing 737 Max 8s only accounts for less than 3 percent of the domestic fleet. Airlines can use other aircraft, so it will not have too much effect on passenger travel."

The Max is the newest, more fuel efficient version of the 737, the best-selling airliner in history.

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