The Chinese government has grounded all Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets, after an Ethiopian Airlines plane of the same model crashed shortly after take-off killing everyone on board.
The strict order by China’s aviation authorities comes as the human toll of the crash is still being counted in Ethiopia, which claimed the lives of 157 people from 35 different countries, including Kenya, Canada, China and the United States.
Investigations into the crash are still continuing as Kenya and Ethiopia announced they had set up a joint disaster response team to look into the incident.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China said in a statement on Monday morning that all domestic Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets must be out of the air by 6 p.m. local time, due to its principle of “zero tolerance for safety hazards.”
The move was followed by an announcement from Ethiopian Airlines that the company had already grounded its small fleet of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets as an “extra safety precaution” while investigations into the crash continue.
The Ethiopian Airlines incident was the second time in less than six months that a new Boeing aircraft crashed just minutes into a flight. A Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight went down over the Java Sea in late October, killing all 189 people on board.
“Given in both air crashes, the aircrafts were newly delivered Boeing 737 MAX 8, and both accidents occurred during the take-off, they share certain similarities,” the administration said in a statement.
China has one of the world largest fleets of Boeing 737 MAX 8, operating 97 of the planes, according to Chinese state-run media.
In a statement Monday, major airline China Air confirmed it would be suspending the planes from March 11, adding they would take action to ensure “smooth traveling for passengers.”
The Chinese authority said it would contact Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration to confirm “flight safety” issues before allowing the planes to fly again.
The Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes are both still under investigation and there is no evidence of a direct link between the cause of the two incidents.
Mary Schiavo, a CNN aviation analyst and the former Inspector General of the US Transportation Department, called the two incidents “highly suspicious.”
“Here we have a brand-new aircraft that’s gone down twice in a year. That rings alarm bells in the aviation industry, because that just doesn’t happen,” she said.
State-owned Ethiopian Airlines is one of Africa’s leading aviation groups, and the continent’s largest carrier by number of passengers.
In a statement Sunday, Boeing said it was “deeply saddened” to hear about the loss of life in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash.
“A Boeing technical team will be traveling to the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board,” the statement said.