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Africa

Australia, Singapore join Boeing ban after Ethiopia crash

media SilkAir Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in Singapore Reuters

Australia and Singapore have announced a temporary ban on Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes in their airspace, while airlines around the world grounded the jets following a second deadly accident in just five months.

On Sunday a new Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 went down minutes into a flight to Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board.

Investigators have recovered the black box flight recorders from the Ethiopian Airlines plane, which went down near Addis Ababa carrying passengers and crew from 35 countries, including some two dozen UN staff.

Ethiopian Airlines, Africa's largest, on Monday said it had grounded its Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet "until further notice".

"Although we don't yet know the cause of the accident, we have decided to ground the particular fleet as an extra safety precaution," said the state-owned carrier.

Ethiopian Airlines have said the pilot of Sunday's flight had more than 8,000 hours of flying time.

RFI's Daniel Finnan spoke to Simon Bennett, an aviation expert at the University of Leicester. He says there's no reason to doubt the airline or experience of the pilots.

US regulators have ordered Boeing to make urgent improvements to the model and insisted they would take action if safety issues are detected.

A Singaporean airline, SilkAir, uses 737 MAX aircraft while a handful of foreign airlines operate the planes in the city-state.

Australia's regulator said it regretted "any inconvenience to passengers but believes it is important to always put safety first". Only one Fijian airline is affected by the Australian ban.

China on Monday already ordered domestic airlines to suspend operations of the plane.

Indonesia follows suit

Indonesia has also grounded its 11 jets of the 737 MAX 8 type.

Inspections of the aircraft were to start Tuesday and the planes would remain grounded until they were cleared by safety regulators, Director General of Air Transport Polana Pramesti told reporters.

A Lion Air jet of the same model crashed in Indonesia in October, killing 189.

South Korea meanwhile ordered the only airline in the country that operates the jets to suspend operations of its two MAX 8s.

Argentina's flag carrier also grounded five MAX 8 aircraft, as did companies in South Africa, Brazil and Mexico.

Oman announced on Tuesday that it was suspending Boeing 737 MAX flights to and from its airports.

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority also announced a ban on the Boeing 737 MAX from operating in or over UK airspace "as a precautionary measure".

Still flying

Several airlines have opted not to cancel MAX 8 flights, with US carriers appearing to uphold confidence in the manufacturer.

"The Boeing 737 MAX is a highly sophisticated aircraft," said India's SpiceJet, which has 13 of the model 8 variant in its 75-strong fleet.

"It has flown hundreds of thousands of hours globally and some of the world's largest airlines are flying this aircraft," it said in a statement.

Other countries which have decided to continue the 737 MAX flights include Russia, Italy, Iceland, Turkey and Dubai.

(with wires)

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