Boeing’s stock dropped Monday, a day after a fatal crash in Ethiopia involving the newest version of its most popular jet, the 737 Max.
Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed just outside Addis Ababa shortly after takeoff on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board. The plane’s flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders have been recovered, but the cause of the crash is unknown and will take weeks to investigate.
But the crash was the second for a new version of the 737 Max after one of the jets operated by Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea off Indonesia in late October, and some countries and carriers responded by grounding their fleets of the plane.
Ethiopian Airlines grounded all of its 737 Max 8 planes, and China and Indonesia ordered the grounding of all 737 Max planes. Cayman Airways said it was grounding two new 737 Max jets, and Chinese airlines on Monday began using Boeing 737-800s on routes typically flown by 737 Max jets.
“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we had to decide to ground the particular fleet as extra safety precaution,” Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement on Monday.
Comair, a South African airline, which took delivery of its first 737 Max 8 just a few days ago, grounded the jet after initially saying that it would continue running it. It had decided to wait until it had consulted with Boeing, other airlines and technical experts, the company said in a statement.
Still, several carriers, including Boeing’s biggest customers in the United States, said they would keep flying the aircraft. Boeing shares were down more than 6 percent by midday, after falling as much as 12 percent earlier.
Southwest Airlines, the biggest buyer of the aircraft in the United States, said it would continue flying the jet, as did American Airlines.
The questions raised by the latest crash go to the heart of Boeing’s business. The single-aisle 737 Max, the American plane maker’s challenger to Airbus’s A320 jet, was Boeing’s best-selling plane ever. It first started flying in 2017 and by this January, the company had delivered more than 350 of the planes, which sell for $120 million apiece. About 5,000 more are on order.
The decision by China’s Civil Aviation Administration to ground the planes hurts Boeing in a region where the company has been able to sell a large number of them. Chinese airlines have ordered at least 104 737 Max planes, and have taken delivery of at least 70.
Several airlines indicated they were holding off on grounding the planes. SpiceJet, a low-cost Indian airline, said it would continue allowing them to fly while awaiting guidance from Indian air safety regulators. Eastar Jet in South Korea and Fiji Airways also said they would keep flying their 737 Max 8s, as did SilkAir, a Singapore Airlines subsidiary.
After the Lion Air Crash, some American aviation authorities said Boeing had not adequately explained to pilots a software change on the 737 Max’s flight control system.
Since then, airlines have provided training classes to inform pilots of the changes to the new system, but it is not known whether Ethiopian Airlines had conducted such training. The available information does not rule out pilot error or a malfunctioning of an entirely separate system.
Boeing said in a statement that it would be sending a technical team to the crash site to provide assistance to the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and the United States National Transportation Safety Board.
In the United States, the head of the Association of Flight Attendants called for the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the 737 Max. The FAA said it is monitoring the situation and plans to join the NTSB in providing assistance to the investigation.
Zach Wichter contributed reporting.