JAKARTA, Indonesia — Fatal crashes of Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes less than five months apart have alarmed the public, triggering a wave of groundings worldwide, but experts say reported similarities between the two disasters are not conclusive evidence of a shared cause.
The Ethiopian Airlines crash Sunday which claimed 157 lives was the second for the new Boeing plane after a MAX 8 jet operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea in October, killing 189 people.
Despite the growing wave of groundings of the aircraft, Canada’s top 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 Monday, the country’s transport minister, Marc 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
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.”
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