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Questions Raised Over Boeing 737 MAX As It Heads To Australia

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board.

The devastating plane crash could renew safety questions about the latest version of Boeing's popular 737 airliner.

Virgin Australia currently has 30 737 MAX aircraft on order, with the first due in November, a spokeswoman confirmed to 10 daily. Virgin has also ordered 737 Max 10s.

Virgin would not comment on the current safety issue concerns surrounding the planes off the back of the recent crash in Ethiopia and the October Lion Air crash, as they had not yet received the planes.

A spokesperson for Qantas confirmed they "don’t have any 737 MAX aircraft in our fleet and we don’t have any on order".

A mock-up of a Virgin 737 MAX plane. Photo: Boeing

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed shortly after taking off from the capital of Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board.

The plane was new.

The accident is eerily similar to an October crash in which a 737 MAX 8 flown by Indonesia's Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea minutes after take-off, killing all 189 people on the plane. But safety experts cautioned against quickly drawing too many parallels between the two crashes.

William Waldock, an aviation-safety professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said suspicion will be raised because the same type of plane appeared to crash the same way -- a fatal nosedive that left wreckage in tiny pieces.

READ MOREEthiopian Airlines Plane Crashes With 157 People On Board

READ MORE: Deadly Ethiopian Airlines Crash: Pilot Wanted To Turn Back Before Plane 'Shattered'

Waldock said Boeing will look more closely at the flight-management system and automation on the MAX. But he noted that it is very early, and more will be known after investigators find and analyse the Ethiopian plane's black boxes.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO told reporters that a maintenance check-up did not find any problems with the plane before Sunday's flight, "so it is hard to see any parallels with the Lion Air crash yet," said Harro Ranter, founder of the Aviation Safety Network, which compiles information about accidents worldwide.

"I do hope though that people will wait for the first results of the investigation instead of jumping to conclusions based on the very little facts that we know so far," he said.

Boeing representatives did not immediately respond for comment. The company tweeted that it was "deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew" on the Ethiopian Airlines Max plane.

The Chicago-based company said it would send a technical team to the crash site to help Ethiopian and US investigators.

A spokesman for the NTSB said the US agency was sending a team of four to assist Ethiopian authorities. Boeing and the US investigative agency are also involved in the Lion Air probe.