Boeing has temporarily suspended its entire global fleet of 737 Max aircraft after investigators uncovered new evidence from the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10.
The U.S, which had previously held out while many other countries banned the aircraft, said that it had received “new information and physical evidence” that linked the incident to the Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October, which similarly involved a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane.
While the cause of the Ethiopian Airlines crash has not been confirmed, an automated anti-stall system on the newly commissioned Boeing aircraft has come under scrutiny.
The plane’s vertical speed was unstable after take-off and investigators suspect that the anti-stall feature may have overcompensated and caused the aircraft’s nose to pitch lower.
This matches analysis from the Lion Air crash, while satellite data has revealed similarities between the flight patterns of the Ethiopian Airlines plane and other Boeing 737 Max planes in operation.
Initial insurance payments from the Ethiopian Airlines crash are speculated to be in the region of $50-60 million and will be incurred by Chubb and Willis Towers Watson, who were confirmed on Monday as the company’s lead insurer and broker.
However, if the Boeing aircraft is verified as faulty, then its insurers – Global Aerospace and Marsh – could incur further large claims as a result of compensation efforts.
Boeing said that it “continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max” but decided to ground the flights after consultation with U.S aviation authorities “out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety”.
Other countries to have banned the aircraft, including the UK, China, India and Australia, similarly said that their actions were a precautionary measure.
In citing new evidence and satellite data, however, the U.S Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision to ground the planes seems to go a step further, analysts have suggested.
Shares in Boeing increased to $377 each following the announcement, although the company’s market value has dropped by nearly $26 billion since the Ethiopia Airlines crash.
All 157 passengers were killed after Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 crashed six minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa en route to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Sunday.
Update: Read our follow up story on Swiss Re confirming its role as an insurance provider for both Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines.