China grounds Boeing 737 MAX 8, popular aircraft over the country.
Following the crash of another Boeing 737-MAX on Sunday, the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration has reportedly grounded all of the MAX variants of the popular aircraft over the country.
The aircraft involved in Sunday’s crash was an Ethiopian Airlines 737-MAX, the same aircraft variant that was involved in a Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October.
News of the grounding reportedly came from Caijing, a bi-weekly finance and economics magazine based out of Beijing, China. Bloomberg later picked up on the news, though it hadn’t yet been verified by Western media at publication.
What is clear, however, is that the skies over China are curiously clear of the Boeing 737-MAX as of Monday morning local time. Flightradar24, a Swedish company that tracks aircraft in real time based on satellite receiver data, shared an image on its Facebook feed showing only two 737-MAX aircraft airborne near mainland China as the work week started. Both were near Hong Kong airspace. By contrast, nearly a dozen of the aircraft were airborne at the same time the week prior.
Other variants of the Boeing 737 remain airborne in Chinese airspace while around 350 of the MAX variant exist around the world. A snapshot posted by Flighradar24 on Sunday night showed 160 of the aircraft actively being tracked by satellite.
Boeing’s 737 is the highest-selling commercial jet on the market and over 10,000 of the aircraft have been produced in multiple variants since it started flying in 1967. Only as recently as 2011 have the variants extended into the MAX range, which is Boeing’s high-efficiency version of the aircraft. That iteration of the 737 have only been commercially flying since 2017.
It’s still not clear whether the Ethiopian crash is related the Lion Air crash, and many have urged caution around drawing any conclusions around the MAX variant prior to a full investigation from the NTSB. As the Associated Press reported this morning, however, similarities between the two incidents will play a key part in the upcoming analysis.
So far, most Western carriers and governments have stopped short of grounding 737-MAX aircraft while the investigation gets underway. One exception has been Cayman Airways, which received only its second 737-MAX on March 3rd. That carrier has taken the MAX entirely out of service, saying in a release that “we have taken the decision to suspend operations of both our new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, effective from Monday March 11, 2019, until more information is received.”
Should the variant actually get grounded in the United States, several carriers will be affected. Southwest Airlines, which runs a fleet composed entirely of 737s, currently has 31 of the MAX variant in its possession and another 249 on order. Both American and United also have a handful of the variant in their respective fleets.