FILE PHOTO: A technician prepares to check Garuda Indonesia’s Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane parked at the Garuda Maintenance Facility AeroAsia, at Soekarno-Hatta International airport near Jakarta, Indonesia, March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
SAO PAULO/PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Brazil on Wednesday became the first major Latin American nation to suspend Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft from flying after a request from the country’s federal chief prosecutor following Sunday’s deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane.
Air travel regulators in Latin America had been reluctant to ground planes, relying on the criteria of carriers, even as authorities in Europe, China, the United States and others ordered the planes grounded.
In a statement, Brazil’s ANAC, as the air travel regulator is known, said it made its decision after consulting with U.S authorities, Boeing Co and local carriers.
As of Wednesday night, regulators in Argentina and Mexico had not grounded planes, but carriers Aeromexico and Aerolineas Argentinas had voluntarily decided not to fly the aircraft.
Argentina’s state-run news agency, Telam, reported on Tuesday that South American regulators were discussing potential groundings, but said no decision was “imminent” and would be made by the countries as a group.
Earlier on Wednesday, Panama’s Copa Holdings said it would voluntarily suspend operations of its six Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft, following a decision by the U.S. air regulator to ground those jets.
Copa operates Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes, which are of the same family but not the same model as the one involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash in Ethiopia that killed all 157 on board. That plane was a Boeing 737 MAX 8, the same model involved in the October 2018 crash of a flight operated by Lion Air in Indonesia that killed all 189 on board.
Brazil’s ANAC has not ordered MAX 9 planes to be grounded, only those of the MAX 8 type.
Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun in Sao Paulo and Elida Moreno in Panama City; Editing by Dave Graham and Peter Cooney