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Boeing 737 Max grounded, black boxes found

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An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed just after takeoff, killing all 157 thought to be on board
USA TODAY

China and Indonesia on Monday grounded their Boeing 737 Max 8 planes following the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines jet that killed all 157 people aboard.

Cayman Airways also parked the planes and Ethiopian Airlines already had grounded its Max 8s after Nairobi-bound Flight 302 nosedived to the ground Sunday minutes after takeoff from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we decided to ground this particular fleet as an extra safety precaution,” the Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement.

The airline said the black box voice and data recorders had been found and expressed hope it would help discover the cause of the crash. The senior pilot issued a distress call and was told to return but all contact was lost shortly afterward, the airline said.

The Ethiopian plane was delivered to the airline in November. The jet’s last maintenance was on Feb. 4, and it had flown just 1,200 hours.

The dead included people from 35 countries and several members of United Nations organizations. Eight Americans were among the victims. Both Addis Ababa and Nairobi are major hubs for humanitarian workers, and some had been on their way to a large U.N. environmental conference set to begin Monday in Nairobi.

The crash came less than five months after a Lion Air plane, also a 737 MAX 8, plunged from the skies above Indonesia and into the Java Sea, killing all 189 passengers and crew members.

In both instances, the pilots made an unsuccessful effort to return to the airport a few minutes after takeoff. And both flights experienced drastic speed fluctuations during ascent.

But experts warn that doesn’t mean the reasons they plummeted were the same.

“As far comparing it to the Lion crash, that’s very tempting because the profile looks very similar, but that could be totally wrong. We’re really early in all of this,’’ said Robert Ditchey, a former Navy pilot and airline executive who’s now an aviation consultant.

“This is a punch in the nose for Boeing, but you can’t blame Boeing yet. You don’t know what happened. It may have nothing to do with the airplane itself. It may be a pure coincidence.’’

More: ‘A punch in the nose for Boeing’: Second fatal crash raises questions

More: 8 Americans among 157 dead after Ethiopian Airlines flight crashes

Forensic experts from Israel had arrived to help with the investigation. Ethiopian authorities lead the investigation into the crash, assisted by the U.S., Kenya and others.

“These kinds of things take time,” Kenya’s transport minister, James Macharia, told reporters Monday morning.

Kenya lost 32 people, more than any country. Relatives of 25 of the victims had been contacted, Macharia said, and taking care of their welfare was of utmost importance.

“Some of them, as you know, they are very distressed,” he said. “They are in shock like we are. They are grieving.”

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