Chinese carriers ordered to ground Boeing 737 Max 8 after Ethiopia crash
US plane maker Boeing is facing pressure to guarantee the safety of its 737 Max 8 aircraft after the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed nearly 160 people, including seven Britons.
All Chinese airlines were ordered to temporarily ground their Max 8 planes by the country’s aviation watchdog on Monday, while a Caribbean operator suspended operations with both of its new planes.
In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was “closely monitoring developments” following the incident, which comes months after a crash involving the same kind of plane that left 189 people dead.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said on Sunday that the firm is providing “technical assistance” to Ethiopian government and regulatory authorities in their investigation.
Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam said the operator was “one of the safest” in the world, adding: “At this stage we cannot rule out anything.”
The airline said it had contacted the families of all victims, who came from 35 nations.
British United Nations worker Joanna Toole, a 36-year-old from Devon, was named among the 157 people killed when Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 crashed six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa on Sunday morning.
Colleagues at the UN fisheries and aquaculture department described Ms Toole as a “wonderful human being”, while her father said she was a “very soft and loving” woman.
Ms Toole’s father Adrian, from Exmouth, told the DevonLive website that she was “genuinely one of those people who you never hear a bad word about”.
“Everybody was very proud of her and the work she did, we’re still in a state of shock,” he added.
The Foreign Office confirmed that at least seven Britons were on board the Nairobi-bound aircraft, which crashed in Ethiopia at about 8.45am local time killing all on board.
One Irish victim was named as Michael Ryan, a married father-of-two based in Rome with the UN’s World Food Programme, which distributes rations to people in need.
Known as Mick and formerly from Lahinch in Co Clare, Mr Ryan was celebrated for “doing life-changing work in Africa” by Irish premier Leo Varadkar.
Also among the dead was polar tourism expert Sarah Auffret, who was making her way to Nairobi to discuss tackling plastic pollution in the seas at the UN assembly, according to her Norway-based employers Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO).
The University of Plymouth graduate held dual French-British citizenship, Norwegian media reported.
As many as 19 UN workers were feared to have been killed in the crash, the number being so high because of its environmental forum due to start on Monday.
Manuel Barange, a UN director, said he was “profoundly sad and lost for words” over her death, saying she had been travelling to Nairobi to represent the organisation at the UN Environment Assembly.
Also on board was Joseph Waithaka, a 55-year-old who lived in Hull for a decade before moving back to his native Kenya, his son told the Hull Daily Mail.
Ben Kuria, who lives in London, said his father had worked for the Probation Service, adding: “He helped so many people in Hull who had found themselves on the wrong side of the law.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “deeply saddened” to learn of the disaster, and offered her thoughts to everyone “affected by this tragic incident”.
The victims’ identities started to emerge with Slovakian MP Anton Hrnko saying he was “in deep grief” that his wife and two children were killed in the crash.
Aid workers, doctors and a prominent football official were also believed to be among the dead.
Many of the passengers were from Kenya, but others were said to be from Italy, France, the US, Canada, Ethiopia, Egypt, Germany, Slovakia, India and China.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China issued a notice on Monday at 9am local time (1am GMT) ordering domestic airlines to suspend the commercial operation of the Boeing 737 Max 8 before 6pm.
Meanwhile Cayman Airways president Fabian Whorms said both of the airline’s new Max 8s will not fly from Monday.
While the cause is not yet known, the crash shared similarities with last year’s Lion Air jet plunging into the Java Sea, killing 189. That also involved a Boeing 737 Max 8 crashing minutes after takeoff.
On Sunday, visibility was clear but air traffic monitor Flightradar24 said “vertical speed was unstable after take off”.
The pilot had sent out a distress call and was given the all clear to return, according to the airline’s chief executive Mr Gebremariam.
Senior captain Yared Getachew had a “commendable performance” having completed more than 8,000 hours in the air, the airline said.
The plane had flown from Johannesburg to the Ethiopian capital earlier on Sunday morning, and had undergone a “rigorous” testing on February 4, a statement continued.
An eyewitness told the BBC there was an intense fire when the plane crashed.
“The blast and the fire were so strong that we couldn’t get near it,” he said. “Everything is burnt down.”