China to suspend commercial flights of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets
Updated 17:43, 11-Mar-2019
CGTN

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has ordered Chinese airlines to ground their Boeing 737 Max 8 jets following the deadly crash on Sunday of an Ethiopian Airlines plane, the second such fatal accident involving the same aircraft model in five months.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 went down minutes after takeoff on Sunday from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board.

Chinese airlines operate some 60 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, which came into service in 2017.

In a statement on its website on Monday, the Chinese aviation regulator said the two crashes "share certain similarities" noting that in both cases "the aircraft were newly delivered Boeing 737 Max 8, and both accidents occurred during takeoff."

It ordered domestic airlines to halt the operations of their Boeing 737 Max 8 jets by 6 p.m. local time on Monday.

"The administration will contact the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing Company and resume the commercial operation of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft after it is convinced about the safety of the model," CAAC said.

Last October, a 737 Max 8 flown by Indonesian budget carrier Lion Air crashed 13 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 passengers and crew members on board.

China's Foreign Ministry confirmed Sunday that eight Chinese nationals, including one from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, were on board the ill-fated plane.

A Chinese group look at the arrival schedule for information about Chinese nationals who were on board the plane that crashed in Ethiopia, at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, March 10, 2019. /VCG Photo

A Chinese group look at the arrival schedule for information about Chinese nationals who were on board the plane that crashed in Ethiopia, at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, March 10, 2019. /VCG Photo

"We extend our profound condolences to the victims and deep sympathy to the bereaved families," the ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a statement.

Of the Chinese passengers, five were male and three female. Most of them were under 40.  According to the Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia, four of the Chinese victims were employees of Chinese companies, two worked for the United Nations and two were from Liaoning and Zhejiang provinces on personal trips.

The ministry ordered the Chinese diplomatic mission in Ethiopia to launch an emergency response and contact the Ethiopian government and Ethiopian Airlines for further information.

China hopes Ethiopia can determine the cause of the crash as soon as possible and keep China informed of the investigation's developments, Lu said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry and embassy will closely follow the development of the incident and fully assist the families of the victims to deal with the aftermath, the spokesperson added.

The Lion Air plane experienced issues with its airspeed indicators on the day of the accident and in three previous flights, according to data from one of the black boxes.

It was not immediately clear what caused the Ethiopian Airlines plane to go down, but the company said its pilot had reported difficulties during takeoff and asked to return to the airport before contact was lost.