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All Boeing 737 Max operations in Europe suspended

Posted at 11:17 AM, Mar 12, 2019

The European Union is suspending Boeing 737 MAX flights in Europe, joining a list of governments temporarily grounding the aircraft following Sunday's fatal plane crash in Ethiopia.

The EU's suspension, covering 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 9 planes, was set to begin at 7 p.m. UTC (3 p.m. ET) Tuesday.

The move came as a raft of nations -- including many individual European countries -- introduced temporary suspensions Tuesday for 737 MAX aircraft after a MAX 8 flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya, crashed Sunday into a field six minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board. The flight reported technical problems and asked for permission to turn back before it crashed, and investigations are underway into the cause.

It's the second time in less than six months that this model has crashed soon after takeoff. A new Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight went down in October over the Java Sea off Indonesia, killing 189 people.

Before the EU's announcement, other nations and aviation authorities announced their own bans Tuesday, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Oman, Singapore, Turkey and the UK.

The UK, Oman, Singapore, Australia, Ireland and France and Norwegian Airlines suspended the whole Boeing 737 MAX range.

China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iceland, Germany and the airlines LOT Polish, TUI Airways, GOL Linhas Aereas, Aeromexico, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Cayman Airways, Comair Airways, Eastar Jet, Jet Airways, Mongolian Airlines, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Lion Air and Silkair have suspended the MAX 8 model. Turkey suspended MAX 8 and 9 models.

These airlines are still flying 737 MAX planes: American and Southwest airlines, Fiji Airways, Icelandair, Flydubai, Spicejet and WestJet.

China's aviation administration became the first to order a suspension Monday evening, grounding all domestic Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets due to its principle of "zero tolerance for safety hazards."

China has one of the world's largest fleets of Boeing 737 MAX 8, operating 97 of the planes, according to Chinese state-run media.

While some international airlines and governments grounded the 737 MAX 8 planes, US airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing have not .

But the fallout has appeared to affect Boeing's bottom line. The aircraft maker's stock dropped 8% Monday, with investors voicing concerns about the 737 and Boeing's future in China , predicted soon to become the world's first trillion-dollar market for jets.

Boeing said it has "full confidence" in the safety of the 737 MAX in a statement Tuesday on its official Twitter account.

Boeing said it understands the decisions made by customers but reiterated that "safety" remains its No. 1 priority.

"The United States Federal Aviation Administration is not mandating any further action at this time, and based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators," the statement said.

Growing concern

There is no evidence of a link between the crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia, but the similarities have prompted some airlines to take extra safety precautions while both investigations are ongoing.

"Given in both air crashes, the aircrafts were newly delivered Boeing 737 MAX 8, and both accidents occurred during the takeoff, they share certain similarities," the Chinese aviation administration said in a statement Monday. It added that it would contact Boeing and the FAA to confirm "flight safety" issues before allowing the planes to fly again.

On Tuesday, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said that the pilots of Flight 302 told air traffic control they were having "flight control problems" before the crash.

GebreMariam said the flight data recorders "will be sent overseas" but didn't specify where since Ethiopia lack the technical capacity.

Pilots were aware of an airworthiness directive issued after the Lion Air crash in October and had had additional training, he said.

Aviation safety experts and regulators around the world remain divided on whether the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is safe to fly.

"I've never said that it's unsafe to fly a particular model of aircraft, but in this case, I'm going to have to go there," David Soucie, a former FAA safety inspector told CNN, saying that passengers don't have enough information.

Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board, said he believes it's too early for American authorities to ground the jets.