Ethiopian has said the pilot reported difficulties after take-off and had requested a return to Addis Ababa.
In a statement issued on Monday morning (March 11), Ethiopian confirmed it had grounded all its Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft “until further notice”.
Other airlines have also grounded their planes. All Chinese airlines have grounded their Boeing 737-8 Max and so has Cayman Airlines.
An Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet crashed six minutes after it took off from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport on its way to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. All 157 passengers (149 and 8 crew) on this regularly scheduled flight, have died.
A spokesman said the crash happened at 08.44 local time on Sunday, shortly after take-off from the Ethiopian capital.
Ethiopian Airlines Boeing B-737-800MAX flight ET 302/10 was heading to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. It had 33 nationalities on board.
In a statement, the airline said that search and rescue operations were underway near the crash site around the town of Bishoftu, which is 60km (37 miles) south-east of the capital. Investigators are looking for clues as to what caused this.
The passenger jet was a new addition to their fleet and Boeing, the company that built the aeroplane, said in a tweet that it was “closely monitoring the situation” and that “it was deeply saddened and are on standby to provide assistance”. Its 737 Max-8 aircraft is relatively new to the skies, having been launched in 2016.
Ethiopian Airlines’ safety record
The state-owned Ethiopa Airlines has always had an impeccable safety record and is considered one of the best for service and comfort.
In 2010 one of the company’s aeroplanes crashed in the Mediterranean Sea shortly after leaving Beirut. The incident killed 90 people on board.
Another plane of the same model was involved in a crash five months ago, when a Lion Air flight crashed into the sea near Indonesia with nearly 190 people on board.
The airline’s highest fatalities to date happened in a November 1996 crash during a hijacking on a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. One of the engines stopped when the fuel ran out and although pilots attempted an emergency water landing, they hit a coral reef in the Indian Ocean and 123 of the 175 people on board were killed.
Ethiopian Airlines flies to many destinations in Africa, making it a popular carrier in a continent where many airlines fly only from their home country to destinations outside Africa. The airline is fast becoming the gateway to the continent.
The aircraft was one of 30 ordered by Ethiopian as part of its expansion plans and underwent a “rigorous first maintenance check” just a month ago, the BBC reports.