Italy closes its airspace to Boeing 737 Max planes after Ethiopian Airlines crash

Italy has banned Boeing's 737 Max 8 medium-haul jets from its airspace in response to the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed all 157 people on board.

Italy closes its airspace to Boeing 737 Max planes after Ethiopian Airlines crash
The Boeing 737 Max 8. Photo: AFP

Italian Civil Aviation Authority ENAC said on Tuesday that it was stopping flights with the Boeing 737 Max-8 aeroplane from 9pm onwards.

The decision came shortly before a separate announcement from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which said that, as a precautionary measure, it was “suspending all flight operations of all Boeing Model 737-8 Max and 737-9 Max aeroplanes in Europe.”

The blanket ban on the aircraft in Europe came following the decisions of many individual countries, as well as several airlines, to ground their B-737 Max 8 aircraft.

Workers remove wreckage from the site of the crash site of the Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines flight Photo: Michael Tewelde/AFP

Outside of Europe some airlines are continuing to fly the aircraft pending an investigation into the crash and possible guidance from Boeing itself.

The Nairobi-bound plane was the same type as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed in October, killing 189 passengers and crew – and some officials have detected similarities between the two accidents.

READ ALSO: Tributes paid to Rome victims of Ethiopian plane crash

Lion Air Flight 610 vanished from radar shortly after taking off from Jakarta on October 29th, crashing into waters off the north coast of Java Island and killing all 189 people onboard.

About 30 relatives of the crash victims have since filed lawsuits in the United States against Boeing, alleging that faults with the new airliner, including with its anti-stalling system, led to the deaths.

Questions were raised by experts and a pilots' union in the US about whether pilots had been properly trained and whether Boeing had fully shared data about changes made to the on-board control systems.

Boeing responded by saying that the 737 Max was “as safe as any airplane that has ever flown the skies.”

There is no indication that a technical problem was to blame for the crash of the Boeing 737-800 Max operated by Ethiopian Airlines on Sunday which crashed minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa bound for Nairobi. 

An investigation by aviation experts and analysis of the blackbox flight recorders is expected to shed light on the causes of the crash.

Max are some 350 of the 737 Max 8 planes currently in service around the world.

READ ALSO: Rome's Ciampino airport closed after three WW2 bombs found


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Brussels warns Italy to rein in public spending amid pandemic

Most EU member states should continue to invest to support the continent's economic recovery, but heavily-indebted Italy should rein in public spending, the European Commission warned on Wednesday.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi expects the country's GDP to recover in the coming year. Photo: Alessandra Tarantino / POOL / AFP

“The economy is bouncing back from the recession, driven by a rebound in demand across Europe,” EU executive vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said.

“But we are not out of the woods yet. The economic outlook remains riddled with uncertainty,” he said, warning that the coronavirus is still spreading, prices are rising and supply chains face disruption.

Despite these unpredictable threats, European officials predict a strong recovery, and want eurozone governments to maintain their “moderately supportive fiscal stance” to support investment.

EXPLAINED: How Italy’s proposed new budget could affect you

Italy, however, remains a worry. Its public debt passed 155 percent of its GDP last year, and Brussels is worried that it is still budgeting to spend too much next year.

“In order to contribute to the pursuit of a prudent fiscal policy, the Commission invites Italy to take the necessary measures within the national budgetary process to limit the growth of nationally financed current expenditure,” the commission report said.

The commission did not say by how much Italy’s spending plans should be reduced, and its recommendation is not binding on the government.

The European Union suspended its fiscal discipline rules last year, allowing eurozone members to boost their public spending to help their economies survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the European commissioner for the economy, former Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, said governments should now “gradually pivot fiscal measures towards investments”.

“Policies should be differentiated across the euro area to take into account the state of the recovery and fiscal sustainability,” he said.

“Reducing debt in a growth-friendly manner is not necessarily an oxymoron.”

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a former European Central Bank chief, has said Italy’s economy is recovering after the pandemic-induced recession.

Draghi forecast economic growth this year of “probably well over six percent” in a statement on October 28th.

Italy’s GDP rate grew by 2.6% in the third quarter of 2021.

While economists don’t expect Italian GDP to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels until 2022, ratings agency Standard & Poor has revised its outlook for Italian debt from stable to positive.