An airplane carrying 157 people crashed shortly after takeoff from the Ethiopian capital Sunday, killing everyone on board.
The crash was similar to last year’s crash of a Lion Air plane in Indonesia. Both crashes involved the new Boeing 737 Max 8. And both happened minutes after takeoff.
It was not clear what caused the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302 to go down in clear weather. The plane was on its way to Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya. People from 35 countries were among the dead.
Ethiopian Airlines said "the pilot mentioned that he had difficulties and that he wanted to return" to Addis Ababa airport.
The crash caused the plane to break into small pieces. Searchers could be seen loading black plastic bags into trucks. At the end of the day, the airline said it was still searching for the plane’s flight-data recorder.
Renewed questions about Boeing 737 Max
The accident is likely to renew questions about the Boeing 737 Max. It is the newest version of the world’s most popular passenger airplane, first introduced in 1967.
Indonesian investigators have not determined a cause for the October crash of the Lion Air plane. The data recorder, recovered from that crash, showed the plane’s airspeed indicator had not worked properly on its last four flights. However, the airline said the problems had been fixed.
Days after the Lion Air crash, Boeing sent a notice to airlines that incorrect information from a sensor could cause the plane to automatically point the nose down. The notice reminded pilots of the process for handling such a situation.
Safety experts warned against comparing the two crashes until more is known about the Sunday crash of the Ethiopian Airlines plane.
Ethiopian Airlines calls itself Africa’s largest carrier and is widely considered the best-managed airline in Africa.
The Ethiopian 737 Max airplane was new. It was delivered to the airline last November and had flown just 1,200 hours. The pilot was a senior aviator, joining the airline in 2010, the airline said.
The airline chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam added, “Ethiopian Airlines is one of the safest airlines in the world. At this stage we cannot rule out anything.”
On Monday, Ethiopian Airlines announced that it will stop flying the remaining four Boeing 737 Max airplanes "as an extra safety precaution." And China's aviation official also ordered all Chinese airlines to ground nearly 100 planes.
In the U.S., the National Transportation Safety Board said it will assist Ethiopian officials with the crash investigation. And Boeing planned to send a technical team to Ethiopia.
The airline said 149 passengers and eight crew members were thought to be on the plane. Among the dead were 32 Kenyans and 18 Canadians. Others came from China, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Israel, India and Somalia.
The United Nations estimated that 19 people connected to the organization were killed in the crash. They were thought to be traveling to a major U.N. environmental meeting scheduled to start Monday in Nairobi.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Associated Press, Reuters and VOA news reports.