The troubled Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft has been banned from Australian airspace after an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority announced it was temporarily suspending operation of the planes while investigations into the cause of the accident continue.

While no local airlines currently use the aircraft, two foreign airlines fly them in Australian airspace.

One of those is the Singapore Airlines-owned SilkAir, which has already grounded its planes. The other is Fiji Airways, which is yet to make a decision.


A statement from CASA said it was working with Fiji Airlines to minimise any disruptions, and with regulators in Fiji and Singapore.

Fiji Airways has two Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, as well as other aircraft types in its fleet that will be substituted for the 737 MAX for services to Australia.

"This is a temporary suspension while we wait for more information to review the safety risks of continued operations of the Boeing 737 MAX to and from Australia." CASA CEO and Director of Aviation Safety, Shane Carmody, said.

"CASA regrets any inconvenience to passengers but believes it is important to always put safety first."

CASA's announcement comes after Singapore's aviation regulator today completely banned the use of the MAX aircraft in the country's airspace.

It joined China, Indonesia, South Korea and Mongolia in grounding the jets.

Ethiopian Airlines, Cayman Airways, Singapore Airlines' subsidiary SilkAir and carriers across China and Indonesia have grounded all MAX 8 planes in response to the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash at the weekend.

Southwest, Air Canada and American Airlines are several carriers who continue to use the aircraft.

In a statement to on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Virgin Australia says they will make a decision on their MAX 8 order as the investigation continues.

"Safety is Virgin Australia's number one priority," the statement read.

"We are closely watching the situation and monitoring any updates from Boeing and the investigating authorities.

"There are currently no Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in our fleet and it is too early for us to make comment on our order. With our first aircraft delivery not due until November this year, we believe there is sufficient time to consider the outcome of the investigation and make an assessment.

"We will continue to work with Boeing and the relevant authorities as more information becomes available."

157 people died when an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed just six minutes after take-off. Photo / 123rf
157 people died when an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed just six minutes after take-off. Photo / 123rf

While investigations into Sunday's crash are ongoing and the exact cause of the Ethiopian Airlines crash is unclear, there are similarities between the Lion Air disaster six months prior involving the same Boeing aircraft model resulting in several airlines around the world to ground their fleet.

On Sunday, Ethiopian Airlines confirmed there were no survivors of flight ET 302 — a MAX 8 aircraft — carrying 157 people, including eight crew, on board.

The horror crash occurred just six minutes after taking off from Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa bound for Nairobi in Kenya.

In October 2018, another MAX 8 went down just 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board.

"It's highly suspicious," Mary Schiavo, an aviation analyst and former inspector general of the US Transportation Department, told CNN of the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

"Here we have a brand-new aircraft that's gone down twice in a year. That rings alarm bells in the aviation industry because that just doesn't happen."

Virgin Australia is due to receive the 737 MAX 8's in November later this year, along with 10 of the MAX 10s.

Captain John Lyons, president of the Virgin Independent Pilots Association who represent Virgin Australia and Tigerair pilots, said despite the tragedy he has the "utmost confidence in the Boeing 737".

"VIPA continues to have the utmost confidence in the Boeing 737 and the rigorous training that Virgin Australia provides its pilots," Captain Lyons said in a statement.

"We look forward to its introduction at Virgin Australia as it brings outstanding commercial advantages to the airline and enhanced customer appeal.

"Boeing has delivered more than 10,000 737 aircraft since it first flew in 1967, accumulating nearly 300 million flight hours with the lowest fatality rate of passenger airliners.

"Without exception, this makes the 737 the safest and most popular commercial jet ever."

In response to the tragedy, China has told its domestic airlines to ground their Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleets as the tragic crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302 raises grave concerns about safety of the top-selling aircraft.

The pilot of the 737 MAX 8 involved in yesterday's crash reported difficulties just minutes after takeoff and asked to turn back to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

But within moments the plane crashed into the ground, killing all 157 people on board.

China has now asked domestic airlines to temporarily ground the 737 MAX 8 aircraft, which was also involved in the fatal crash of a Lion Air flight in October, Beijing's Caijing News reports.

China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Air China, Hainan Airlines and Shandong Airlines have the aircraft in their fleet, and China Southern Airlines has another 34 on order.

A blanket grounding in China — one of the world's biggest travel markets — will be a huge blow to Boeing's reputation, Bloomberg reports.

Virgin Australia ordered the Boeing aircraft in 2012, with several other popular airlines using the model as part of their fleet.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co is the biggest operator of the MAX 8, with 31 aircraft, followed by American Airlines Group Inc and Air Canada with 24 each.

Southwest is in contact with Boeing and "remains confident in the safety and airworthiness of its fleet of more than 750 Boeing aircraft," spokesman Chris Mainz said in a statement.

In the United States, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines are all operators, using it on routes like Miami-New York and Dallas-Chicago. Other major carriers in Canada and Mexico — as well as roughly two dozen airlines across Europe, South America, Asia and Africa (including Icelandair, Aerolíneas Argentinas, LOT Polish Airlines and Air China).

According to CBS, Boeing introduced the 737 MAX 8 in May 2017, the company has delivered roughly 350 planes worldwide, with more than 5000 orders placed for the latest generation of 737s.

As of December 31, American Airlines had 24 of the planes in its fleet, and Southwest Airlines had 31 aircraft in service with more than 200 on order.

United Airlines' fleet includes 14 MAX 9 planes, a larger version of the MAX 8.

The price per plane ranges from $US99.7-129 million ($A141.5-$A183.1 million), though discounts are usually given to clients for large orders.

Its main competitor is the Airbus A320, which is also designed for short and medium-haul flights.

Meanwhile, thirty of the same aircraft involved in the fatal Ethiopian Airlines disaster that killed 157 people at the weekend have been ordered by an Australian carrier.

Australia's second biggest airline, Virgin Australia, told it's too early to comment on whether they will pull their order of 30 Boeing 737 MAX 8s following the fatal crash, which is the second incident involving the MAX 8 model in just six months.