Boeing is facing questions about the safety of its airplanes after an Ethiopian Airlines 737 crashed near Addis Ababa, killing 157 people.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 went down on Sunday, March 10, moments after leaving the airport. Circumstances behind the disaster bare some similarities with a Lion Air plane crash last year.
Both incidents involved brand new Boeing 737 Max 8 jets, raising concerns about the model's air safety.
However, experts believe it is still too early to determine what exactly caused the Flight 302 mishap.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Plane Crash
Flight 302 left Addis Ababa's Bole International airport bound for Nairobi, Kenya. The plane took off in good weather and with clear visibility. However, the aircraft experienced difficulty in ascending at a stable speed, according to reports.
The airplane's pilot, Senior Captain Yared Getachew, received clearance to return to the airport but contact with the plane was lost six minutes later. The Ethiopian Airlines 737 had already crashed near the town of Bishoftu, just outside of the capital.
All 157 people on board Flight 302 died, including 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, and seven Britons. A United Nations official said 19 of the victims were affiliated with the organization.
The Ethiopian government has declared Monday, March 11, as a national day of mourning.
The cause of the plane crash is still being investigated and will likely take weeks to finish.
"At this stage, we cannot rule out anything," said Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam.
Meanwhile, Boeing issued a statement regarding the mishap.
"Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane," aircraft maker said. "We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team."
Boeing said it has sent a technical team to the crash side to provide assistance to investigators.
Boeing 737 Max 8
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 was a Boeing 737 Max 8, a model that has only entered active service in 2017. The airplane that had crashed was one of the six such jets Ethiopian Airlines had ordered as part of its expansion plans. Last month, the company said the airplane received a "rigorous first check maintenance".
The Boeing 737 Max 8 jet was also involved in another plane crash a few months ago. In October, Lion Air Flight 610 plummeted into the Java Sea, killing 189 passengers.
Investigators said the pilots of Flight 610 had problems with the automated anti-stalling system, which was a feature included in Boeing 737 Max jets. The findings suggest that the new system repeatedly forced the airplane's nose down, despite the pilots' struggle to correct it. Flight 610 was also a brand-new aircraft.
Mary Schiavo, former U.S. Transportation Department Inspector General, called both plane crashes "highly suspicious."
"Here we have a brand-new aircraft that's gone down twice in a year," Schiavo said. "That rings alarm bells in the aviation industry, because that just doesn't happen."
Following the Lion Air crash, Boeing issued an emergency notice to airline companies about the potential problem with its anti-stalling system. The aircraft maker is expected to come out with a software patch to address the issue.