UK becomes latest country to suspend Boeing 737 MAX aircraft following Ethiopia Airlines crash

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Ethiopian Airlines crew members were among the 157 who died

(SKY NEWS) — The UK has banned the Boeing 737 MAX from flying in and out of its airports after the Ethiopia crash that left 157 dead.

British travel operator TUI has confirmed that all of its 737 MAX 8 fleet has been grounded.

A spokesperson from the company said: “Any customers due to fly home today on a 737 MAX 8 from their holiday will be flown back on another aircraft.

“Customers due to travel in the coming days will also travel on holiday as planned on other aircraft.

“The safety and wellbeing of our customers and staff has remained our primary concern.

An official holds up passports recovered from the wreckage

Norwegian airlines has also suspended flights of its Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes.

Tomas Hesthammer, the company’s acting chief operating officer, said:: “In response to the temporary suspension of Being 737 MAX operations by multiple aviation authorities we have taken the decision to not operate flights using this aircraft type, until advised otherwise by the relevant aviation authorities.

“We would like to apologise to customers for any inconvenienced caused, however, safety will always remain our top priority.”

Announcing the suspension of the Boeing planes, the UK Civil Aviation Authority said: “(We have) been closely monitoring the situation, however, as we do not currently have sufficient information from the flight data recorder we have, as a precautionary measure, issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace.”

The safety directive is in place until further notice.

It comes after Australia’s civil aviation authority and a South Korean airline followed others in announcing the move.

China, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico suspended flights by the same plane on Monday.

The suspensions come after 157 people were killed on Sunday when a 737 Max 8 crashed in Ethiopia.

Nine Britons were among the dead.

Boeing said it had been developing a flight control software enhancement for several months after the Lion Air Flight 610 disaster last year.

The plane, also a 737 Max 8, crashed into the sea off Indonesia and killed all 189 on board.

Boeing said the software changes were designed to make “an already safe aircraft even safer”.

However, two major crashes in the space of less than five months have raised questions about the safety of the aircraft.

About 350 are currently in service with airlines around the world, but thousands more are on order.

In a statement it said: “The Boeing Company is deeply saddened by the loss of Lion Air Flight 610, which has weighed heavily on the entire Boeing team, and we extend our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the families and loved ones of those on board.

“Safety is a core value for everyone at Boeing and the safety of our airplanes, our customers’ passengers and their crews is always our top priority.”

Boeing said the software enhancements included limiting stabiliser trim commands in response to erroneous readings, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training.

It said it believed the updates would be granted a Airworthiness Directive (AD) by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) no later than April.

Boeing has said it has no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies.

An Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 crashed minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa on Sunday.

The airline grounded its remaining four Boeing 737 MAX 8s until further notice as “an extra safety precaution” on Monday.

Authorities in several countries followed suit – but several airlines serving UK airports, including TUI and Norwegian, are continuing to fly the planes.

Both the flight data and cockpit voice recorders have now been recovered.

US aviation experts joined an Ethiopian-led investigation into the crash on Tuesday.

The FAA arrived at the crash site outside the capital, Addis Ababa, with representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Meanwhile, witnesses have described seeing smoke billowing out of the rear of the plane and a loud noise before it hit the ground.

Officials have contacted the families of all those killed in the tragedy with the victims coming from 35 nations.

British UN worker Joanna Toole, a 36-year-old from Devon, has been identified as one of those who died.

Colleagues at the UN fisheries and aquaculture department described Ms Toole as a “wonderful human being”, while her father said she was a “very soft and loving” woman.

One Irish victim was named as Michael Ryan, a married father of two based in Rome with the UN’s World Food Programme, which distributes rations to people in need.

Also among the dead was polar tourism expert Sarah Auffret, who was making her way to Nairobi to discuss tackling plastic pollution in the world’s seas.

As many as 19 UN workers were feared to have been killed in the crash.

Manuel Barange, a UN director, said he was “profoundly sad and lost for words” over her death, saying she had been travelling to Nairobi to represent the organisation at the UN Environment Assembly.

Also on board was Joseph Waithaka, a 55-year-old who lived in Hull for a decade before moving back to his native Kenya, his son told the Hull Daily Mail.

Briton Sam Pegram – an aid worker from Preston – was also on board the jet.

His mother Deborah told the Lancashire Evening Post: “Sam was so looking forward to going to Nairobi. He loved the work he was doing.

“We can’t believe this has happened. We’re totally devastated.”

Sahra Hassan Said and Nasrudin Abdulkadir, a mother and son with dual Somali-British citizenship, were also killed.

Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “deeply saddened” by the disaster, and offered her condolences to everyone “affected by this tragic incident”.

Doctors and a prominent football official are also believed to be among the dead.

The mother of an Ethiopian Airlines crew member who died in the crash has been seen wailing by the plane wreckage.

Kebebew Legess, whose nationality has not been reported, said: “She would have been 25-years-old but God would not allow her.

“My daughter, my little one.”

Families of those killed on the flight have been told they will have to wait at least five days to begin receiving some victims’ remains.

Due to the impact and ensuing fire, the identification of some remains could take weeks or months.

The process, which may need to be done via dental records or DNA, will be complicated because the victims came from more than 30 countries.

Ethiopia also has limited forensic capabilities, an industry expert said.

Many of the passengers were from Kenya, but others were said to be from Italy, France, the US, Canada, Ethiopia, Egypt, Germany, Slovakia, India and China.

On Sunday, visibility was clear but air traffic monitor Flightradar24 said “vertical speed was unstable after take-off”.

The pilot had sent out a distress call and was given the all clear to return, according to the airline’s chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam.

Senior captain Yared Getachew had a “commendable performance” having completed more than 8,000 hours in the air, the airline said.

The plane had flown from Johannesburg to the Ethiopian capital earlier on Sunday morning, and had undergone a “rigorous” testing on 4 February, a statement continued.

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