China and Ethiopia grounded their Boeing Co 737 MAX 8 fleets on Monday while investigators found the black box from a crash that killed 157 people in the second disaster involving that aeroplane model in the last six months.
The Ethiopian Airlines jet bound for Nairobi crashed minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all on board.
The victims came from 33 nations and included 22 United Nations’ staff.
The discovery of the black box, reported by Ethiopian state TV, may shed light on the cause, though there was no immediate indication if it was the flight data or cockpit voice recorder.
At the scene, men in Red Cross jackets picked through the dirt, putting items in black paper bags, while investigators hunted for the black box voice recorders.
“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the crash, we had to decide to ground the particular fleet as extra safety precaution,” Ethiopian Airlines said. It has four other 737 MAX 8 jets, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
China on Monday also ordered its airlines to suspend operations of their 737 MAX 8 jets by 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) following the crash, the second of a Boeing 737 MAX jet since one run by Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed in October.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said it would notify airlines when they could resume flying the jets, after contacting Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“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 CAAC said, adding the step was in line with its principle of zero tolerance of safety hazards. The 737 MAX 8 is sometimes referred to as the 737-8.
DAY OF MOURNING
A senior U.S. government official said it was too early to tell if there was any direct connection between the two accidents, but that reviewing the issue would be among the top priorities for investigators.
Ethiopia’s parliament declared Monday a day of mourning, while a global summit in Nairobi opened with a moment of silence as some wept for the U.N. members killed in one of the deadliest aviation accidents in the organisation’s history.
The dead include a 28-year-old Norwegian Red Cross worker, three Austrian aid workers on their way to Zanzibar, a Nigerian-Canadian professor known for mentoring young colleagues, and an Italian archaeologist, employers and foreign ministries said.
The pilot Yared Getachew, who was a joint Ethiopian-Kenyan national, had a “commendable record” and more than 8,000 hours of flying experience, the airline said.
Kenyan authorities had managed to contact the families of 25 of the 32 Kenyan passengers, cabinet secretary for transport James Macharia told journalists at the airport on Monday.
The 737 is the world’s best selling modern passenger aircraft and is seen as one of the industry’s most reliable.