Boeing's fastest-ever selling aircraft is sparking safety concerns after an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX jet crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday, killing everyone on board. It is the second deadly crash for the plane in less than five months.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in a rural area southeast of Addis Ababa, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew members on board. The aircraft left the Ethiopian capital at 8:38 a.m. local time in clear weather and lost contact six minutes later, the airline said. Victims included citizens of over a dozen countries, including Kenya, Canada, the United States, Great Britain, China and Italy.
The flight was operated on a new Boeing 737 MAX 8, the same type that went down in the Java Sea, just after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia, in October, killing all 189 aboard.
Boeing shares lost 5.3 percent Monday to close at $400.01, after tumbling as much as 13.5 percent earlier in the day.
What brought down the four-month-old Ethiopian Airlines plane is not clear, but it is uncommon to have two fatal crashes of new planes so close together, industry experts said.
"It's almost unheard of," said John Cox, a senior crash investigator and former airline pilot. Cox and others warned that it is early in the crash investigation and there is no indication yet whether the two crashes were caused by the same factors.
Chinese aviation officials told domestic airlines Monday to temporarily ground theirBoeing 737 MAX 8 jets and many had complied, according to flight trackers. China's Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement that it will contact Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration and let airlines know when to resume flights after it makes sure the planes can fly safely.
Cayman Airways grounded its two Boeing 737 MAX planes until more information about the crash emerges. Its CEO Fabian Whorms said that the airline stands by "our commitment to putting the safety of our passengers and crew first by maintaining complete and undoubtable safe operations."
While both the Ethiopian and Lion Air planes had crashed minutes after takeoff, Lion Air had reported problems aboard its plane leading up to the crash, which did not appear to be the case in the Ethiopian crash, Cox noted. Flight-tracking site Flightradar24, said that data "show that vertical speed was unstable after take off" on the Ethiopian Airlines plane, a sign it struggled to gain altitude.
The Boeing 737 MAX has been flying for less than two years and is a best-seller for the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer. Boeing has delivered 350 MAX jets to airlines around the world since May 2017 and had more than 4,660 in its order book as of January, according to the company.
The Ethiopian crash raises questions about the top-selling plane made by Boeing, whose commercial airplane business generated nearly 60 percent of the company's record $101.1 billion in revenue last year, as airlines around the world race to bolster their fleets to cater to growing demand. Including Monday's stock-price retreat, Boeing's stock is up 23 percent this year, making it the top gainer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.