World News

Crashed jet was 8 years old, leased from U.S. firm

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - The Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 that crashed after taking off from Beirut on Monday was eight years old and had been leased from a division of U.S. financing company CIT Group, the airline said.

“The aircraft was maintained. The last maintenance was on December 25 -- it was a normal check. It has no technical problems at all,” Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Girma Wake told a news conference in Addis Ababa. “It departed from here yesterday with no remarks at all. It left Beirut with no remarks at all,” he added.

The plane with 90 people on board crashed into the sea minutes after taking off from Beirut in stormy weather early on Monday and there were no reports of survivors.

Ethiopian Airlines said the Boeing 737-800, a recent version of Boeing’s best-selling model, had left the U.S. planemaker’s factory in 2002.

The airline said it had leased the aircraft in September 2009 from CIT Aerospace, part of commercial lender CIT Group.

CIT, a bank holding company and a lender to mainly small and medium-sized businesses, recently emerged from bankruptcy in the United States triggered by the financial crisis. Neither CIT nor Boeing was immediately available for comment.

CIT is a well-known name in the aviation industry and manages a fleet of more than 300 aircraft. It provides leasing and financing to more than 100 airlines, according to its website.

The aircraft was one of two Boeing 737-800s being operated under lease by Ethiopian Airlines, which said last week it had ordered 10 more to broaden its network.

Reporting by Barry Malone in Addis Ababa, Tim Hepher in Paris; editing by David Stamp