Dozens of airlines ground planes as investigation into deadly crash continues

Wreckage is piled at the crash scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday, March 11, 2019. A spokesman says Ethiopian Airlines has grounded all its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft as a safety precaution, following the crash of one of its planes in which 157 people are known to have died. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

ETHIOPIA — More than a dozen airlines and a handful of countries have grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 after Sunday’s deadly crash in Ethiopia.

One witness has told The Associated Press that smoke was coming from the plane’s rear before it crashed in a rural field. “The plane rotated two times in the air, and it had some smoke coming from the back then, it hit the ground and exploded,” Tamrat Abera said.

The black boxes recovered Monday will help determine why the plane went down, killing all 157 people on board.An airline official, however, said one recorder was partially damaged and “we will see what we can retrieve from it.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak to the media.

Ethiopian Airlines decided to ground its remaining four 737 Max 8s until further notice as “an extra safety precaution,” spokesman Asrat Begashaw said. The carrier had been using five of the planes and awaiting delivery of 25 more.

More airlines announced they would ground the jets. On Tuesday, an official with South Korean airline Eastar Jet said they were doing so in response to customer concerns.

Airlines in China and Indonesia, Aeromexico, Brazil’s Gol Airlines, India’s Jet Airways and others also temporarily grounded their Max 8s.

Australia suspended all flights into or out of the country by Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

There are currently 350 Boeing 737 Max jets in service around the world. More than 70 of them are operated by U.S. airlines.

But Boeing said it did not intend to issue any new recommendations about the aircraft to its customers. It was sending a technical team to the crash site to help the investigators.

Safety experts have cautioned against drawing too many comparisons too soon with the Lion Air crash of the same model last year that killed 189 people.

“Boeing builds fantastic airplanes. Even if this is the same thing as the Lion Air accident six months ago it is very easily solvable,” said aviation expert John Nance.

After the Lion Air crash, Boeing began working on training and design updates to the Max 8. The Federal Aviation Administration says those must be done by next month.

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