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Singapore, Australia suspend Boeing 737 MAX flights

Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

Singapore/Canberra, March 12 (UITV/IANS) - Singapore and Australia on Tuesday suspended operations of all Boeing 737 Max aircraft in and out of their airports, joining other leading carriers who made similar moves following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane of the same model that killed all 157 people on board.

The US plane manufacturer's latest model suffered a second fatal crash in less than five months on Sunday. Australia and Singapore are understood to be the first countries to ban planes from across Boeing's Max fleet, the Guardian reported.

The Singapore suspension affected SilkAir, an arm of Singapore Airlines, that according to the country's Civil Aviation Authority operates six Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The suspension went into effect from 2 p.m. Singapore Airlines does not have any 737 MAX 8 planes.

The move affected China Southern Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Shandong Airlines and Thai Lion Air as these airlines fly into Singapore and have the 737 MAX in their fleets.

Australia also banned all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from flying to or from the country. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority here said that it was "in the best interests of safety to ground the jets", operated here currently by Fiji Airways into Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

In an identical move, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said it would not licence Boeing 737 Max aircraft in the country, while South Korea suspended operations of the aircraft.

Aerolíneas Argentinas too grounded its five Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. The other airlines and countries that suspended use of the 737 MAX 8 were Ethiopian Airlines, China, Indonesia, Aeromexico, Cayman Airways and South Africa's Comair.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that Boeing 737 Max 8 was airworthy but that it had demanded design changes to the aircraft by April.

Boeing said it would deploy a software upgrade across the fleet "in the coming weeks". The company said that for several months it "been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 Max, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer".

It did not refer to Sunday's crash in connection to the software upgrade but did express its condolences to the relatives of those killed in the disaster.

The carriers that didn't ground Boeing 737 Max 8 were Fiji Airways, American Airlines, Norwegian, Southwest Airlines and Icelandair.

On Sunday, Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302, on its way to the Kenyan capital Nairobi from Addis Ababa, crashed six minutes after take off. It ploughed into a field near Tulu Fara village outside the town of Bishoftu, some 60 km southeast of the Ethiopian capital. The cause of the crash was under probe.

The same model was involved in an accident last October when a Lion Air plane plunged into the sea off the coast of West Java 13 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 on board.

The Boeing 737 Max fleet of aircraft are the latest in the company's successful 737 line. The group includes the Max 7, 8, 9 and 10 models, according to the BBC.

By the end of January, Boeing delivered 350 of the Max 8 model out of 5,011 orders. A small number of Max 9s are also operating. The Max 7 and 10 models, not yet delivered, are due for roll-out in the next few years.