In this file photo taken on July 16, 2018 Visitors watch as a Boeing 737 Max lands after an air display during the Farnborough Airshow, south west of London. (BEN STANSALL / AFP)
WASHINGTON/ADDIS ABABA — The US aviation regulator said on Tuesday it would not ground Boeing Co 737 MAX planes after a crash in Ethiopia that killed 157 people, bucking a trend of countries around the world that have suspended the aircraft's operations.
The black boxes from the ill-fated plane will be sent to Europe for analysis, a spokesman for Ethiopia Airlines said on Wednesday.
"It will be taken to Europe," Asrat Begashaw told Reuters. He declined to say which country, adding: "It will be decided today or tomorrow."
Begashaw also said the pilot had reported flight control problems and had requested to return to Addis Ababa, from where the plane took off en route to Nairobi.
US officials said the devices suffered some damage but they were confident of some initial results within 24 hours of the data being downloaded.
US carriers are eager to see the results as a growing number of countries and carriers are grounding the planes. There were 371 of the 737 MAX family jets in operation before this week's groundings and about two thirds of the fleet is now grounded, based on Reuters calculations.
Workers are pictured next to a Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplane on the tarmac at the Boeing Renton Factory in Renton, Washington on March 12, 2019. (JASON REDMOND / AFP)
The European Union's aviation safety regulator suspended all flights in the bloc by the 737 MAX and a US senator who chairs a panel overseeing aviation suggested the United States take similar action following Sunday's crash, the second since October involving that type of plane.
Britain, Germany and France joined a wave of suspensions of the aircraft following the crash, piling pressure on the United States to follow suit.
Boeing, the world's biggest planemaker, which has seen billions of dollars wiped off its market value since the crash, said it understood the actions but retained "full confidence" in the 737 MAX and had safety as its priority.
The three US airlines using the 737 MAX - Southwest Airlines Co, American Airlines Group Inc and United Airlines - stood by the aircraft, although many potential passengers took to social media to express concerns, asking if they could change flights or cancel.
A Boeing 737 MAX 8 for China Southern Airlines, front, is pictured at the Boeing Renton Factory in Renton, Washington on March 12, 2019. (JASON REDMOND / AFP)
Canada also has no plans to ground 737 MAX aircraft but is ready to act to suspend flights if new information emerges indicating there is a problem, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said. Argentina and other South American nations are evaluating closing their airspace to 737 MAX planes, Argentina's state-run news agency, Telam, reported.
The chief executive of Ethiopian Airlines also urged Boeing Co to ground all of its 737 MAX 8 jets until it is established that they are safe to fly.
In an unusual decision, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it was suspending all flights in the bloc by the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9 jets.
It shied away, however, from the even rarer step of pulling the safety certification for the plane itself, focusing instead on the softer process of restricting its use by airlines. That leaves some leeway for the US FAA to decide its own approach.
Flight ET 302 came down in a field soon after takeoff from Addis Ababa, creating a fireball in a crater. It may take weeks or months to identify all the victims, who include a prize-winning author, a soccer official and a team of humanitarian workers.
Boeing shares fell 6.1 percent on Tuesday, bringing losses to 11.15 percent since the crash, the steepest two-day loss for the stock since July 2009. The drop has lopped US$26.65 billion off Boeing's market value.
Adding to the pressure, Norwegian Air said it will seek compensation from plane maker Boeing for costs and lost revenue after grounding its fleet of 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
"We expect Boeing to take this bill," Norwegian said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
VICTIMS FROM 30 NATIONS
Given problems of identification at the charred disaster site, Ethiopian Airlines said it would take at least five days to start handing remains to families.
The victims came from more than 30 nations, and included nearly two dozen UN staff.
"We are Muslim and have to bury our deceased immediately," Noordin Mohamed, a 27-year-old Kenyan businessman whose brother and mother died, told Reuters.
"Losing a brother and mother in the same day and not having their bodies to bury is very painful," he said in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where the plane had been due.
The new variant of the 737, the world's most-sold modern passenger aircraft, is viewed as the likely workhorse for global airlines for decades and 4,661 more are on order.
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