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A new Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 bound for Nairobi crashed shortly after take-off on Sunday morning, killing all 149 people and eight crew members on board. It was the second fatal crash of the new and popular Boeing jet in less than five months.
Flight 302 left the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa at 8:38 a.m. local time and lost contact six minutes later, the airline said. It crashed in a rural area southeast of the capital.
Passengers aboard the plane were from all over the world and included eight U.S. citizens, eight from China, eight from Italy, seven each from Britain and France, 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, and nine Ethiopians, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said in a news conference.
The plane had arrived from Johannesburg on Sunday morning, said GebreMariam. The state-owned airline took delivery of the plane from Boeing in November 2018, he said.
The captain of the plane has been flying for the airline since 2010 and is a "senior pilot" with more than 8,000 flight hours and an "excellent record," GebreMariam said.
This is the second fatal crash of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, a top selling and new jet, since October, when Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 on board. Flight-tracking site Flightradar24, said that data on the Ethiopian Airlines flight "show that vertical speed was unstable after take off."
The pilot had reported "difficulty" during the flight, asked to return and was given clearance, said GebreMariam.
Flight 302 was Ethiopian Airlines' most deadly crash. Ethiopian's last fatal crash was in January 2010 when a Boeing 737-800 crashed near Beirut's airport after pilots lost control of the plane, killing the 90 people on board, according to the the Aviation Safety Network.
While the cause of the Ethiopian Airlines crash is still unknown but it is likely to ramp up scrutiny of Boeing and the popular plane.
"Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane," the airline said in a statement. "We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team."
Boeing has delivered 350 of the Boeing 737 MAX jets and had remaining orders for 4,661 of the planes as of January, according to the company.
The Chicago-based aerospace giant said it has a team set to provide technical assistant at the request of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
The NTSB is sending a team of four officials to the crash site, a spokesman for the agency said.
Ethiopian Airlines first announced its order for 20 Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets in 2014 in an effort to become the "leading airline group in Africa." The airline took delivery of the first one in July 2018 and has six in its fleet, the company said Sunday.
The airline has expanded rapidly in recent years, adding destinations worldwide, including service to Washington D.C. and Chicago. The carrier serves 107 international destinations from Addis Ababa hub, according to the airline's website.