More than a dozen airlines along with the governments of China and Indonesia grounded a new version of Boeing’s most popular jet Monday, as the American aerospace giant scrambled to deal with the fallout from a deadly plane crash in Ethiopia.
It was the second time in a matter of months that this model, the 737 Max 8, crashed just minutes after an erratic takeoff, leaving Boeing and safety regulators around the globe racing to determine what went wrong and whether the plane was safe to fly.
Investigators in Ethiopia on Monday said the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder had both been recovered, which could speed up the investigation. But it could still take time to discern whether the cause of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which killed 157 people, was a faulty plane, pilot error or something else entirely.
In October, a Lion Air flight crashed under similar circumstances in Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board.
While the cause of that crash is still under investigation, Indonesian and American aviation authorities have raised the possibility that software in the Max 8 was in part to blame.
Those similarities immediately provoked concern among carriers, pilots, flight attendants, passengers and investors. At least 20 airlines around the world have grounded their 737 Max 8 planes, largely in China and Indonesia. In all, more than 130 of the roughly 350 new jets that were in service have been pulled from use.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that it would examine the data and act as necessary. “External reports are drawing similarities between this accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident,” the American regulator said in a statement. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions.”
Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, the only two carriers in the United States that use the jet, both said they would continue to fly the plane. At least 16 more carriers around the world are still flying the jet.
Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, expressed sympathy for the victims and their families Monday, saying the company was working closely with American and Ethiopian authorities to investigate the accident.