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Growing number of countries, airlines ban use of Boeing 737 MAX 8s as North America holds out

Last Updated Mar 12, 2019 at 12:14 pm MDT

Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes are parked near Boeing Co.'s 737 assembly facility in Renton, Wash. on Nov. 14, 2018. In the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy, Canada's two largest airlines say they are confident in the safety of the Boeing aircraft that makes up part of their fleets. The accident Sunday, which killed all 157 aboard the Boeing 737 Max 8, raised concerns over parallels to the crash of a Lion Air jet that plunged into the Java Sea last October, killing 189 people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ted S. Warren

Growing number of airlines, countries decide to ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes after two fatal crashes months apart

Reported similarities in fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes not conclusive evidence of shared cause: expert

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has moved to suspend operations to all Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes in Europe following Sunday’s fatal crash near Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash, which left 157 people dead, came less than five months after a MAX 8 jet operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea in October, killing 189 people.

The EU aviation authority’s decision came just hours after Germany, Iceland, Ireland and the U.K. joined a rapidly growing number of nations either grounding the planes or barring them from their airspace.

Fatal crashes involving the new type of aircraft have alarmed the public and triggered a wave of groundings worldwide, but experts say reported similarities between the two disasters are not conclusive evidence of a shared cause.

The German transport ministry said that country was closing its airspace to Boeing 737 MAX 8s, while Iceland, Ireland and the UK have also suspended operation of the aircraft.

Meantime, Brazil’s Gol Airlines, Caribbean carrier Cayman Airways, India’s Jet Airways, and Mexico’s Aeromexico are just some of the airlines that have decided to suspend use of their MAX 8 planes.

They join countries like China — which has 96 of the jets in service — Singapore, and Indonesia, which have grounded their MAX 8s. China’s civilian aviation authority said its order was “taken in line with the management principle of zero tolerance for security risks.”

The Chinese authority said it will consult the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing before deciding when to lift the ban.

Singapore has temporarily banned MAX 8 jets — and other models in the MAX range — from entering and leaving the country. It’s civil aviation authority said it would “closely monitor the situation” and added the ban would be “reviewed as relevant safety information becomes available.”

Canada, U.S. hold out

Despite the growing wave of groundings of the aircraft, some of Canada’s airlines continue to have them in service. Sunwing, West Jet and Air Canada all use the jets.

The country’s two largest airlines said they are confident in the safety of the aircraft, and added they would continue to fly them.

On Tuesday, the country’s transport minister, Marc Garneau, stood by comments he made a day earlier, saying Canada has no plans to ground its fleet of MAX 8s.

On Monday. Garneau said he would board “without hesitation” the type of aircraft in question, stressing his confidence in the new plane.

“I am confident that we are following up on this very, very carefully and with all of the priority that is necessary to ensure that we discover what the cause of the accident was. Then, I will not hesitate to take any action necessary, when we discover what that cause is,” Garneau said.

He says the cause “could be any one of dozens of different possibilities.”

“It was a sunny day, an experienced pilot, the plane was brand new. But we know little else,” he said, noting the black box has been recovered.

Garneau’s comments came after a statement from the Air Canada Pilots Association that called on the minister “to take proactive action to ensure the safety of the Canadian travelling public.”

Related video: Transport Minister reassures Canadians after Ethiopian crash

Jakarta-based aviation expert Gerry Soejatman said airlines are being inundated with calls from travellers which along with governments grounding MAX 8 fleets “shows that the public is scared.”

Aviation experts contacted by Associated Press said only flight data recorders can provide conclusive evidence about what caused the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

Eighteen Canadians were killed when Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa. The flight was headed for Nairobi.

-With files from the Canadian Press