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Some Boeing 737 Max 8 planes grounded after Ethiopian airline crash

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An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed just after takeoff, killing all 157 thought to be on board
USA TODAY

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team of experts to Ethiopia on Monday to aid investigators trying to determine the cause of an Ethiopian Airlines jet crash that killed all 157 people aboard.

Eight Americans were among those killed when the Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 Max 8 nosedived to the ground Sunday minutes after takeoff from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. 

Michael Raynor, the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, visited the accident site Monday and said a U.S. team would arrive Tuesday, Ethiopia’s Fana Broadcasting reported. Raynor said a Boeing technical team, Ethiopia authorities and Interpol also would provide technical support.

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The airline said the black box voice and data recorders had been found and expressed hope they would help determine the cause of the crash.

Ethiopia, China, and Indonesia grounded their Boeing 737 Max 8 planes. Cayman Airways also parked the planes.

“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we decided to ground this particular fleet as an extra safety precaution,” Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement.

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The senior pilot, identified as Yared Getachew, issued a distress call moments after takeoff and was told to return, the airline said. All contact was lost shortly afterward, the airline added.

The plane was delivered to the airline in November and had flown only 1,200 hours. The plane underwent a “rigorous” maintence check Feb. 4. Getachew, had more than 8,000 flight hours of experience, the airline said.

Ethiopia declared a national day of mourning. The dead included people from 35 countries and several members of United Nations organizations. Both Addis Ababa and Nairobi are major hubs for humanitarian workers, and some had been on their way to a large U.N. environmental conference set to begin Monday in Nairobi.

The crash came less than five months after a Lion Air plane, also a 737 MAX 8, plunged from the skies above Indonesia and into the Java Sea, killing all 189 passengers and crew members.

In both instances, the pilots made an unsuccessful effort to return to the airport a few minutes after takeoff. And both flights experienced drastic speed fluctuations during ascent.

But experts warn that doesn’t mean the reasons they plummeted were the same.

“As far comparing it to the Lion crash, that’s very tempting because the profile looks very similar, but that could be totally wrong. We’re really early in all of this,’’ said Robert Ditchey, a former Navy pilot and airline executive who’s now an aviation consultant.

“This is a punch in the nose for Boeing, but you can’t blame Boeing yet. You don’t know what happened. It may have nothing to do with the airplane itself. It may be a pure coincidence.’’

More: ‘A punch in the nose for Boeing’: Second fatal crash raises questions

More: 8 Americans among 157 dead after Ethiopian Airlines flight crashes

Forensic experts from Israel had arrived to help with the investigation. Ethiopian authorities lead the investigation into the crash, assisted by the U.S., Kenya and others.

“These kinds of things take time,” Kenya’s transport minister, James Macharia, told reporters Monday morning.

Kenya lost 32 people, more than any country. Relatives of 25 of the victims had been contacted, Macharia said, and taking care of their welfare was of utmost importance.

“Some of them, as you know, they are very distressed,” he said. “They are in shock like we are. They are grieving.”

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