Boeing 737 Max 8: What We Know About Plane Involved in Ethiopian Airline Crash

Boeing 737 Max
A winglet on the first Boeing 737 MAX airliner at the company's manufacturing plant in Renton, Washington, in December 2015. Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

All 157 passengers aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight departing from Addis Ababa, the nation's capital, to Nairobi, Kenya, were killed when the plane crashed six minutes after taking off the morning of March 10.

Officials identified the plane as a Boeing 737 MAX 8, a new model that first carried commercial air passengers in 2017. The cause of the crash is unclear, but the disaster marks the second mass-casualty crash involving the MAX 8 aircraft in the last six months; the first incident occurred in October 2018, when an Indonesian Lion Air flight crash killed all 189 people aboard.

A link between the two incidents has not been established, authorities cautioned, and both Boeing and government investigators have been dispatched to the scene to investigate.

In a statement, the American aircraft manufacturer expressed condolences to the victims' families. Boeing also said a "technical team is prepared to provide technical assistance at the request and under the direction of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board."

New but Already Popular

According to Boeing's website, MAX aircraft models, including the MAX 7, 8, 9 and 10, have accumulated more than 4,700 orders from 100 customers worldwide. The MAX planes make thousands of flights each day, and buyers include a slew of popular airlines across the globe.

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A map from The Boeing Company website showing airlines that include a 737 MAX in their fleets. The Boeing Company

The Max 8 was touted upon its release as a fuel-efficient upgrade to the existing Boeing 737, the best-selling jetliner of all time.

The First Crash

The 2018 Lion Air jet crash raised a series of questions and investigations as to whether Boeing properly informed and trained pilots on the plane's updated software. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also faced scrutiny and accusations that it wasn't aggressive enough in its approval process, according to an in-depth report from The New York Times.

A central issue in the investigation was an anti-stall software update. Boeing and the FAA concluded that pilots did not need to be informed about the change in the MAX's anti-stall software, claiming that experience with a long-established set of emergency protocols should have been sufficient to handle the plane, according to the report.

"Part of what we wanted to accomplish was seamless training and introduction for our customers, so we purposely designed the airplane to behave in the same way," Dennis A. Muilenburg, Boeing's chief executive, said on CNBC in December 2018. "So even though it's a different airplane design, the control laws that fly the airplane are designed to make the airplane behave the same way in the hands of the pilot."

Renewed Concerns

The latest incident renewed concerns about the process that allowed the MAX 8, which can fly up to 210 passengers, on runways. Ethiopian Airlines owns 6 other MAX 8 aircrafts and grounded them Monday. Cayman Airways and Ethiopian Airlines also grounded the MAX 8 as a safety precaution.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China, which had among the largest fleets of the aircraft, also pulled them from upcoming flights and said it would be contacting Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to address concerns about flight safety.

Who Else Flies Max 8 Jets?

Southwest, Lion Air, Norwegian Air International, flydubai, WestJet, Shanghai, American Airlines, Air Canada and a slew of other leading airlines across the globe have MAX 8s in their fleet, according to Plane Spotters, a website that tracks purchases in the aviation industry.

Richard Quest, a CNN anchor who specializes in aviation, said that as of now the incidents appear to be a matter of coincidence.

"But I'm guaranteeing to you that the authorities will be examining just how close a coincidence, and whether there are common circumstances between the two," he said.