Boeing 737 MAX 8s bound for UK forced to turn around MID-AIR amid airspace ban

The European Aviation Safety Agency has ordered all flights of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9 aircraft to be grounded from 7pm as a “precautionary measure” after the fatal crash. 

It comes just hours after the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) closed British airspace to the planes with immediate effect. 

The  just minutes after taking off from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, on Sunday morning.

U-TURN: The flights were bound for the UK (Pic: FLIGHT RADAR 24)

All 157 people, including 149 passengers and eight crew members, onboard were killed after the aircraft crashed near the town of Bishoftu, 62 km (38 miles) south-east of the capital.

The crash was the second involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 within five months, raising questions about the safety of the plane.

The European Aviation Safety Agency has suspended all flight operations of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9 from 7pm, including not only all of those aircraft in Europe but also those flying over European airspace.

Europe joins Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and China which have all suspended flights of the Boeing aircraft.

Five 737 Max aircraft are currently registered and operational in the UK, while a sixth was planned to become active later this week.

STATEMENT: UK Civil Aviation Authority have banned Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from UK (Pic: UK Civil Aviation Authority)

SCORCHED EARTH: Ethiopian Airlines said its CEO was at the crash site (Pic: ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES)

TUI Airways, formerly Thomson Airways, told Daily Star Online all 737 MAX 8 aircraft currently operating in the UK have been grounded following the CAA’s decision.

Since the airspace ban, at least two 737 MAX 8s bound for the UK have been forced to turn around mid-air.

The Turkish Airlines flights were bound from Istanbul airport to Birmingham and Gatwick.

They had taken off ahead of the Civil Aviation Authority ban on the MAX variant in UK airspace, which was announced shortly after 1pm UK time.

The Birmingham flight, operating as TK1969, was approaching Frankfurt in western Germany, about three hours into the four hour flight.

AIR DISASTER: The aircraft went down just six minutes after take off (Pic: GETTY)

The Gatwick flight, TK1997, had covered just over half the journey and was over the Czech Republic when the order came to turn back.

Both aircraft are expected to arrive back in Istanbul at around 6.30pm local time (4.30pm GMT). Passengers will be re-booked on alternative flights from Istanbul.

It is reported that the decision to return to base was taken by Turkish Airlines.

The aircraft may have been allowed to land, but could have been grounded in the UK – providing an expensive problem for the airline.

UK BOUND: The flights were more than half way into their journeys (Pic: FLIGHT RADAR 24)

WRECKAGE: People walk past a part of the wreckage at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines crash (Pic: GETTY)

“We have issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights”

UK Civil Aviation Authority

A spokesperson for the UK Civil Aviation Authority said: “Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by the tragic incident in Ethiopia on Sunday.

“The UK Civil Aviation Authority has been closely monitoring the situation, however, as we do not currently have sufficient information from the flight data recorder we have, as a precautionary measure, issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace.

“The UK Civil Aviation Authority‘s safety directive will be in place until further notice.

“We remain in close with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and industry regulators globally.”

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TRAGIC: Rescue team walk past collected bodies in bags at the crash site (Pic: GETTY)

In October, a 737 MAX 8 operated by Indonesian budget carrier Lion Air crashed 13 minutes after take-off from Jakarta on a domestic flight, killing all 189 passengers and crew on board.

Sunday‘s disaster has caused alarm in the international aviation industry and wiped billions of dollars off the market value of Boeing, the world‘s biggest planemaker.

But experts say it is too early to speculate on the reason for the crash or whether the two are linked.

Given problems of identification at the charred disaster site, Ethiopia Airlines said it would take at least five days to start handing remains to families.

RECOVERY OPERATION: Rescue team carry collected bodies in bags at the crash site (Pic: GETTY)

The victims came from more than 30 different nations, and included nearly two dozen UN staff.

UN animal welfare worker  on the flight which crashed at around 8.44am local time (5.44am GMT) while heading to Nairobi in Kenya.

Flight ET 302 came down in a field soon after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, 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.

The United States has said it remained safe to fly the planes, and Boeing has said there is no need to issue new guidance to operators based on the information it has so far.

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