Top US aviation expert tells New Zealand to ban Boeing 737 MAX from airways

A top United States aviation expert says New Zealand should ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes after the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash.

The incident, which saw 157 people die after the plane took off on Monday, has been compared to the Lion Air 737 MAX 8 plane crash in Indonesia last year which killed 189 passengers.

The two crashes have raised concerns about the model, prompting European nations like Britain, Germany and France to suspend the aircraft in their airspace.

But on Tuesday, New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority said it also wouldn't be taking any action as it was satisfied with the steps the only operator of the plane to New Zealand, Fiji Airways, has taken to ensure it is safe.

That has surprised former US Department of Transport Inspector General Mary Schiavo, who told The AM Show on Wednesday that the aircraft should be grounded worldwide, including in New Zealand.

"Well it turns out that you can let them land, but I don't think I would let them take off because both of these crashes have happened on the take-off and just a few thousand feet up in the air," she said.

"They could do everything except take-off because that is how these two have crashed."

The AM Show host Duncan Garner suggested the aircraft should be grounded internationally, to which Ms Schiavo said "yes… absolutely".

The United States' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also said after the crash there was no need to ground the planes in the US.

Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam said on Wednesday that the pilots of the doomed flight told air traffic control before the crash that they were having "flight control problems".

Ms Schiavo said that signalled an issue with the computer system.

"It is looking more like the Lion Air crash back in October. So, now you have two planes with unresolved control problems," she said.

"Based on some of the data they have... the pilots had control problems with the plane... which would go back, most likely, to the computer controlling system on that aircraft."

She called the FAA's decision odd as while it won't ground the planes, it has demanded that Boeing does a software update by April.

"That is a very strange position to me as the US federal aviation administration already put out guidance that ordered Boeing to make the changes to the plane by April and that they could crash, and yet they want more guidance before they take any other action. I don't understand that."

US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said regulators would act if they found a safety issue.

"If the FAA identifies an issue that affects safety, the department will take immediate and appropriate action," Ms Chao said.

"I want people to be assured that we take these incidents, these accidents very seriously."

Newshub contacted the Civil Aviation Authority on Wednesday morning after European nations grounded the aircraft to see if it will change its position