Aviation authorities have banned international airlines from flying Boeing 737 MAX planes in or out of Australian airports in the wake of the Ethiopian air crash disaster.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority confirmed to The New Daily on Tuesday night that it had temporarily suspended the planes from landing or taking off.
The ban affects two airlines, Fiji Airways and SilkAir, which are each based overseas but fly in and out of Australia.
CASA said it was working with the airlines to minimise any disruptions and with regulators in Fiji and Singapore.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed engineers at the company behind two deadly air disasters in the past six months were already working on “design changes” to the aircraft before Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines tragedy that killed the 157 people on board.
The manufacturers at Boeing were due to send out the software update to carriers globally by April, following an eerily similar crash that killed 189 people in Indonesia in October involving the same model of plane.
The planes were Boeing 737 MAX 8 models and both crashed just minutes after take-off.
At least 18 airlines around the world have already voluntarily grounded the planes, but US aviation regulators say the US 737 MAX 8 is fit to fly.
“If we identify an issue that affects safety, (we) will take immediate and appropriate action,” said a statement from the US Federal Aviation Association (FAA).
It comes as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared March 11 as a national day of mourning for the victims onboard the ill-fated flight ET 302.
PM Abiy Ahmed shared his condolences in a televised address on behalf of the FDRE Government.
The House of People’s Representatives have declared March 11, 2019 a national day of mourning for citizens of all countries that have passed in this tragic accident. #PMOEthiopia pic.twitter.com/F0aA1sPnYP
— Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia (@PMEthiopia) March 10, 2019
Passengers from more than 30 countries were on the short flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya, a popular route that normally takes about two hours.
While the exact cause of the plane crash in Ethiopia is unclear, Indonesian officials looking into last year’s Lion Air crash believe the pilots struggled to keep their Boeing jet’s nose up during take-off.
They pointed to a problem controlling an automatic safety system that repeatedly pushed the plane’s nose down.
Boeing said it would implement the required “design changes” by April, which include updating training manuals and instructions, to make it easier for pilots to use the automatic safety system in the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
Witnesses of the Ethiopian Airlines crash told Reuters the plane made a strange rattling noise and saw it trail smoke and debris as it swerved above farmland before crashing into the ground.
Tamirat Abera, 25, who was walking past the field at the time, told Reuters the plane turned sharply, trailing white smoke and items like clothes and papers, before crashing about 300 metres away.
“It tried to climb but it failed and went down nose first,” he said. “There was fire and white smoke, which then turned black.”
The aircraft was smashed into small pieces.
Chunks of burnt debris, which included the victims’ belongings and precious items, were spread over farmland beneath the flight path.
Investigators on Monday found two black box recorders, which they will use to help piece together the final moments of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302.
— Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) March 10, 2019
Mexican Airline Aeromexico has become the latest to suspend all six of its Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets.
It joins carriers in China, Brazil, the Cayman Islands and Indonesia.
Virgin Australia has confirmed it has 30 of the 737 Max-8 planes and 10 of the Max-10s on order, with the first of those models due to arrive late this year.
The company declined to comment on whether it would cancel those orders, as investigations continue into the disasters.
Singapore Airlines’ regional carrier SilkAir is currently the only airline operating the 737 Max 8 aircraft in Australia.
In a statement released on Tuesday, SilkAir said its six 737 MAX 8s had been grounded in Singapore “and will not be returned to service until further notice”.
Its 17 Boeing 737-800NGs are not affected.
[Travel Advisory] SilkAir is temporarily withdrawing its Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet from service. Please refer to this link: https://t.co/6PzfpXZhxA
— SilkAir (@silkair) March 12, 2019
SilkAir began flying 737 Max 8 aircraft between Singapore, Cairns and Darwin in January.