HEJERE, Ethiopia (AP) — A growing number of airlines grounded a new Boeing plane involved in the Ethiopian Airlines disaster as a global team of investigators began picking through the rural crash site on Tuesday.
Some airlines cited worried customers for grounding the Boeing 737 Max 8, as experts chased details on why the plane crashed shortly after takeoff Sunday, killing all 157 on board. Answers could take months.
South Korean airline Eastar Jet was the latest to halt its use of the plane. Australia and Singapore suspended all flights into or out of their countries.
Boeing, however, has said it has no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies. It does not intend to issue any new recommendations about the aircraft to its customers. Its technical team joined American, Israeli and other aviation experts in the investigation led by Ethiopian authorities.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it expects Boeing will soon complete improvements to an automated anti-stall system suspected of contributing to the deadly crash of another new Boeing 737 Max 8 in October, and update training requirements and related flight crew manuals.
The Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed in clear weather six minutes after taking off for Nairobi.
One witness told The Associated Press that he saw smoke coming from the plane’s rear before it crashed in a rural field. “The plane rotated two times in the air, and it had some smoke coming from the back then, it hit the ground and exploded,” farmer Tamrat Abera said.
It should take five days before any victims’ remains are identified, Ethiopian Airlines spokesman Asrat Begashaw told the AP.
Investigators on Monday found the jetliner’s two flight recorders at the crash site. An airline official, however, told the AP one recorder was partially damaged.
Safety experts have cautioned against drawing too many comparisons too soon with last year’s Lion Air crash of the same model that killed 189 people in Indonesia.
Ethiopian Airlines grounded its remaining four 737 Max 8s until further notice as “an extra safety precaution.” The carrier had been using five of the planes and was awaiting delivery of 25 more.
Airlines in China and Indonesia, Aeromexico, Brazil’s Gol Airlines, India’s Jet Airways and others also have temporarily grounded their 737 Max 8s.
As the global team searched for answers, a woman stood near the crash site, wailing.
Kebebew Legess said she was the mother of a young Ethiopian Airlines crew member among the dead.
“She would have been 25 years old but God would not allow her,” she wept. “My daughter, my little one.”