Ethiopian Airlines Crash Updates: Britain Joins Ban of Boeing Max 8 Jets


• Britain, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Oman banned all Boeing 737 Max 8 planes from their airspaces on Tuesday, two days after 157 people were killed on such a plane during a flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya.

• At least 27 airlines have now grounded the Max 8, which has crashed twice in five months. Boeing stands by the airworthiness of the jet, but it said it planned to issue a software update and was working on changes to its flight controls and training guidelines. Read about how the airplane maker is dealing with the fallout from the crash.

• Investigators from the United States and elsewhere have arrived at the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash site. Much of the investigation will focus on the so-called black boxes, voice and data recorders that were recovered on Monday.

As the list of airlines taking their 737 Max 8 aircraft out of service continued to grow, Britain, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Oman joined China and Indonesia in suspending all use of the plane.

The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, the British counterpart to the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States, said that it had, as a precautionary measure on the Max 8, “issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying U.K. airspace.” The agency said its decision affected at least five 737 Max 8s that have been registered and are operating in the country.

The decision affected TUI Group, a British-German holiday tour company that operates the affected planes. The company, which flies vacationers on package holidays in the Mediterannean, could not immediately confirm how many flights or passengers would be affected.

The British decision also affected Norwegian Airlines, which said it would stop flying its 18 Max 8s until further notice. Norwegian, which uses Max 8s between East Coast American cities and Western Europe, acknowledged that the suspension would lead to flight delays and cancellations.

Singapore’s decision will affect Silk Air, a Singapore-based airline with six of the planes, and four other airlines that operate the aircraft in the country.

After Silk Air grounded its planes, Fiji Airways was the only carrier still operating the aircraft in Australia. Fiji Airways said on Tuesday — before Australia’s announcement — that it intended to continue flying its two planes and had “full confidence” in their safety, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Also on Tuesday, Eastar Jet of South Korea grounded its two Max 8 jets.

In the days since the crash, many airlines have opted to ground the planes out of caution. Four additional airlines — Aeroméxico, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Gol of Brazil, MIAT Mongolian Airlines and Royal Air Maroc of Morocco — took the planes out of service on Monday, bringing the worldwide total to 25.

At least 18 airlines were still flying the jet on Monday, including Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada.

Grounding a fleet because of technical problems is rare. The F.A.A. hasn’t done it in the United States since 2013, when a problem with the Boeing 787’s battery system was discovered.

Boeing is negotiating with the Federal Aviation Administration over improvements to its 737 Max 8 after the aircraft’s second crash in five months, though both the government and company insist the plane is safe to fly as is.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were recovered on Monday, but the process of extracting the data contained within the so-called black boxes could be lengthy, experts cautioned.

The two recorders will need to be taken to a specialized center to read their data, said Lynnette Dray, an aviation expert and senior research associate at University College London.

“If the boxes are intact, then they will be able to take the data off them and look at it immediately,” Dr. Dray said.

American investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were at the crash site near Bishoftu, Ethiopia, on Monday. In a Twitter post, the F.A.A. said: “We are collecting data and keeping in contact with international civil aviation authorities as information becomes available.”

Boeing’s 2016 agreement with Malaysia Airlines — an embattled, state-owned carrier — was valued at $2.75 billion at list prices and included purchase rights for additional 737 Max 8 and 737 Max 9 aircraft.

“They have to revisit whatever agreements that they had in the past,” the minister, Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Aliwas, told reporters, referring to the sovereign wealth fund, called Kazanah.

No other airlines have publicly questioned their orders of Boeing Max aircraft in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, said Shukor Yusof, the founder of Endau Analytics, an aviation consultancy based in Malaysia and Singapore.

Kazanah’s backtrack on the orders may have less to do with safety and more to do with money and politics, Mr. Yusof said, adding that the airline has been plagued by steep losses since 2014. Additionally, he said, the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, which came to power last year, is aware that the citizens are currently skeptical of spending from government coffers.

On Tuesday, Mr. Mahathir said he was weighing whether to invest more in the airline, or perhaps even sell it or shut it down. “All these things are open for the government to decide,” he said. “We have to decide soon.”

Another major buyer of the Max jets in Asia is VietJet Air, a private Vietnamese airline that recently purchased 100 Boeing 737 Max jets worth nearly $13 billion at list prices.

On Monday, Dinh Viet Thang, the chairman of Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Authority, said that while the first Boeing Max planes were scheduled to be delivered in the country in October, they would not receive licenses for local use until the causes of the Max 8 crashes were identified and the United States Federal Aviation Administration took “proper remedying measures.”



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