Ethopian Air crash: America investigates as China and Indonesia ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft

The newest version of Boeing’s most popular jet is under intensified scrutiny after the deadly crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on Sunday, leading that carrier and at least 17 others around the world to ground their 737 Max 8 planes. But at least 18 carriers, including American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, which are heavy users of the Max 8, continued to fly them on Monday.

The Federal Aviation Administration in the United States, in a “continued airworthiness notification,” said that the investigation had just begun and that it did not have information to draw any conclusions or take any action — meaning the agency still considered the Max 8 safe to fly. But pilots and flight attendants in the United States raised questions about the Max 8’s safety.

A Boeing 737 Max 8 during a delivery ceremony in Zhoushan, China, in December. China on Monday morning ordered 96 of the planes grounded.CreditThomas Peter/Reuters

While investigators have not determined the cause of the crash, the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder have both been recovered, Ethiopian Airlines said. Some circumstances of the crash were similar to one in October in Indonesia that killed 189 people.

Aviation experts expressed surprise at the vast disparity in experience in the two-person cockpit crew. Ethiopian Airlines said the pilot of Flight 302 had 8,000 hours of flying time but the co-pilot had just 200.

The questions go to the heart of Boeing’s business: The 737 Max is its best-selling model. After falling more than 12 percent in early trading on Monday, Boeing shares were down about 7 percent by midday and ended the day down more than 5 percent. Late on Monday, the company issued a statement that it has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, due to be released by April.

The pilot sent out a distress call before the crash, which killed all 157 people aboard. The victims, en route from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya, were from more than 35 countries and included at least 22 employees of United Nations-affiliated agencies.

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