China orders airlines to halt Boeing 737 Max 8 flights

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China’s aviation regulator ordered local airlines to halt Boeing 737 Max 8 flights after a deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash using the same model.

Airlines must suspend commercial operations of all Boeing 737 Max 8 planes by 18:00 local time (10:00 GMT).

The Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed minutes after takeoff on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board.

It was the second crash involving a 737 Max 8 in the past five months.

In October, a flight operated by Lion Air lost altitude soon after takeoff, killing 189 people on board.

“Given that two accidents both involved newly delivered Boeing 737 Max 8 planes and happened during take-off phase, they have some degree of similarity,” the Civil Aviation Administration of China said in a statement.

However, experts warn it is too early to say what caused the Ethiopian Airlines disaster.

China’s aviation regulator said it would notify airlines as to when they could resume flying the Boeing jets.

Several Chinese airlines will be affected by the suspension including Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines.

More than 90 Boeing 787 Max 8 models are in use in mainland China. The aircraft is relatively new to the skies, having only been in commercial use since 2017.