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 before 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.
While experts warn it is too early to say what caused the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, it comes after the same model crashed in a flight operated by Lion Air in October. The plane 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.
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.
Boeing said it was “deeply saddened” by the crash and is sending a team to provide technical assistance with the investigation.
What happens next?
The investigation will be led by Ethiopian authorities co-ordinating with teams of experts from Boeing and the US National Transportation Safety Board.
China’s aviation regulator said it would notify airlines as to when they could resume flying the Boeing jets.
The Chinese have not been the only ones to react to the disaster by suspending operations.
Cayman Airways said in a statement that it has grounded its two 737 MAX 8 planes “until more information is received”.
Ethiopian Airlines, however, said it would continue to fly its fleet of 737 MAX 8 aircraft since the cause of the crash has not yet been determined.
Several North American airlines operate the same aircraft and have said they are monitoring the investigation. Southwest Airlines flies 31, while American Airlines and Air Canada each have 24 in their fleet.