Israel mum as growing number of countries bar Boeing plane in crash
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Israel mum as growing number of countries bar Boeing plane in crash

No word on whether Israel plans to join European Union states and other countries in banning 737 Max 8 from its airspace

A Southwest Boeing 737 Max 8 enroute from Tampa prepares to land at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on March 11, 2019 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)
A Southwest Boeing 737 Max 8 enroute from Tampa prepares to land at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on March 11, 2019 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

Britain, France and Germany on Tuesday joined a rapidly growing number of countries grounding a new Boeing plane involved in the Ethiopian Airlines disaster or turning it back from their airspace Tuesday, but there was no word on whether Israel would follow suit.

The Israeli Airports Authority did not immediately respond to a request to comment on whether it was considering closing Israel’s airspace to the Boeing 737 Max 8.

According to commercial flight tracker Flightradar24, a Boeing 737 Max 8 belonging to Czech airliner Smartwings was en route to Israel Tuesday evening from the Canary Islands.

But many other planes around the world were grounded or forced to reroute as a global team of investigators began looking for parallels with a similar crash just five months ago.

Neither of Israeli airliners El Al or Arkia list the model among the planes in their fleets.

Pressure has grown on the United States to take action over the Boeing 737 Max 8 as Asian, Middle Eastern and then European nations and carriers gave in to concerns. Some cited customers frightened by the sight of Sunday’s crash in clear weather that killed all 157 people on board.

Israel was one of 35 countries to lose citizens aboard the flight. On Monday, authorities named Avraham Matsliah as one of the two Israelis killed when the flight slammed into the ground minutes after takeoff. The second Israeli has not been named.

An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8, on a flight from Miami to New York City, lands at LaGuardia Airport on March 11, 2019, in the Queens borough of New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

Ethiopian Airlines had issued no new updates on the crash as of the evening. Some insights into the disaster and its cause could take months, aviation experts said.

In the wake of the latest crash, the European Aviation Safety Agency issued a directive on Tuesday grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 model aircraft.

The grounding applies to all European Union airspace.

EASA said in its emergency airworthiness directive that “at this early stage” of the most recent investigation, “it cannot be excluded that similar causes may have contributed to both events.”

It added that “based on all available information, EASA considers that further actions may be necessary to ensure the continued airworthiness of the two affected models.”

It said companies may make one noncommercial flight to return their planes to a location where they can be inspected.

Earlier, British regulators said they based their decision on the fact that “we do not currently have sufficient information from the flight data recorder we have.” An Ethiopian Airlines official has said one of the jetliner’s two flight recorders was partially damaged in the crash.

Oman, Norwegian Air Shuttle and South Korean airline Eastar Jet were among the latest to halt use of the Boeing model. Malaysia, Australia and Singapore suspended all flights into or out of their countries.

The US-based Boeing, however, says it has no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies. It does not intend to issue new recommendations about the aircraft to customers. Its technical team joined American, Israeli, United Arab Emirates, Kenyan and other aviation experts in the investigation led by Ethiopian authorities.

The US’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.

Safety experts cautioned against drawing too many comparisons too soon with that Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people.

Rescuers at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 11, 2019. (AP /Mulugeta Ayene)

Even US President Donald Trump weighed in, tweeting that additional “complexity creates danger” in modern aircraft and hinders pilots from making “split second decisions” to ensure passengers’ safety.

He did not specifically mention the crashes but said that “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot.”

The Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed six minutes after taking off for Nairobi.

One witness told The Associated Press 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.

Debris from the crashed Ethiopia Airlines Boeing 737 plane some 60 kilometers southeast of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, March 11, 2019. (Michael Tewelde/ AFP)

A pilot who saw the crash site minutes after the disaster told the AP the plane appeared to have “slid directly into the ground.”

Capt. Solomon Gizaw was among the first people dispatched to find the crash site, which was discovered by Ethiopia’s air force.

“There was nothing to see,” he said. “It looked like the earth had swallowed the aircraft. … We were surprised!” He said it explained why rescue officials quickly sent bulldozers to begin digging out large pieces of the plane.

Ethiopian Airlines, widely seen as Africa’s best-managed airline, 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.

On Tuesday a group of officials from China, which also grounded planes, paused in their work at the scene to reflect with an offering of incense, fruit, bread rolls, and a plastic container of the Ethiopian flatbread injera.

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.”

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