A 737 MAX airplane is pictured on he tarmac with its signature winglet and fuel efficient engines outside the company's factory on March 11, 2019 in Renton, Washington. Boeing's stock dropped today after an Ethiopian Airlines flight was the second deadly crash in six months involving the Boeing 737 Max 8, the newest version of its most popular jetliner. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Indian airline SpiceJet jumped to the defence of the Boeing 737 MAX on Tuesday even as countries grounded the aircraft following the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

“The Boeing 737 MAX is a highly sophisticated aircraft,” SpiceJet, which has 13 B-737 MAX 8 planes in its 75-aircraft fleet, said in a statement.

“It has flown hundreds of thousands of hours globally and some of the world’s largest airlines are flying this aircraft,” it added.

South Korea on Tuesday became the latest country to suspend operations of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, following Singapore, China and Indonesia.

Australia barred all 737 MAX planes from its airspace while US authorities ordered Boeing to improve anti-stalling software and the model’s manoeuvring system.

On Sunday an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 went down minutes into a flight to Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board.

It came after a Lion Air jet of the same model crashed in Indonesia in October, killing 189.

India’s aviation regulator said Monday it had imposed additional “interim” safety requirements for ground engineers and crew for the aircraft but stopped short of ordering their grounding.

SpiceJet said it had implemented the additional “precautionary measures” and was “actively engaged” with Boeing and the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

The only other Indian airline to have the Boeing in its fleet is Jet Airways.

Jet, which has had to ground parts of its fleet in recent weeks due to its financial woes, said earlier that none of its five B-737 MAX aircraft was in operation.

SpiceJet was relaunched as a low-cost carrier in 2004 after being bought by industrialist Ajay Singh. It is now India’s number four airline.

India’s aviation sector is expected to become the world’s third-largest by 2025, with passenger numbers booming six-fold over the past decade.

(AFP)