The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (2023)

Table of Contents
The Boeing 737 first flew in 1967. That model plane, the 737-100, along with a slightly longer version, the -200, were the original generation. In 1979, Boeing began to develop a major revamp of the 737. Making their debuts in the 1980s and early 90s, the 737-300, -400, and -500 came to be known as the 737 Classic series. In the early 1990s, Boeing began working on another 737 update. These planes, which entered service in the late 1990s and early 2000s, were known as the 737NG. The "NG" meant "next generation." Many of these planes are still in service today with orders still being delivered in 2019. The 737NG planes will likely continue to fly for many more years. The performance of the 737NG meant it was essentially a whole new aircraft family compared to the Classic, but it kept enough important commonality with the Classic that upgrading or operating mixed fleets would be easier and more cost-effective for customers. The airframe received upgrades, the wings were redesigned, and the flight deck and cabin were improved. Between the originals, the Classics, and the NGs, the 737 has been one of the best-selling commercial jetliners of all time. More than 10,000 have been delivered worldwide. In 2006, Boeing began to discuss a successor for the 737NG. For a while, as the plane maker mulled the next step, it considered both replacing the 737 with a brand-new airplane, or re-engining the 737NG with more efficient engines, and making other changes for a newer generation. By summer 2010, Boeing still hadn't made a decision, and analysts expected that it wouldn't until the following year. Then, in December 2010, rival Airbus announced the A320neo family (neo = "new engine option"), a re-engined, more efficient version of its A320, the main competitor to the 737. Boeing knew the A320neo was coming, but was still taking its time to decide on the ideal, productive, and most sustainable solution to combat it — in spring 2011, the company was still leaning toward building a new plane, rather than re-engining the existing 737 airframe. Then, W. James McNerney, Jr., Boeing's CEO at the time, received a call from American Airlines' chief executive, Gerard Arpey. Arpey reportedly said that his airline was close to a deal for hundreds of Airbus narrow-body aircraft, warning that Boeing had to be more aggressive and timely to win its business. Until that point, American Airlines had exclusively purchased from Boeing for more than a decade. Desperate to win the order, Boeing ditched the idea of designing a whole new airplane — which could take up to 10 years to get in the air — and instead pivoted to placing new engines on the 737 to create another new generation of the workhorse. It took a few months to finalize the design, but it wasn't quite fast enough to prevent American Airlines from defecting. In July, the carrier announced its order for 130 A320ceo and 130 A320neo jets, with an option for 365 more. It also said that it would order 100 of Boeing's not-quite-ready next-generation 737. Just one month later, Boeing announced the 737 Max family, consisting of three differently sized models: the 737 Max 7, Max 8, and Max 9. The design of the 737 Max had a few appeals for both Boeing and, more importantly, the airline customers to which it had to sell the planes. As with the transition from the 737 Classic to the 737NG, the 737 Max retained a great degree of commonality with its predecessors, meaning one pool of pilots and ground staff could work on both planes, with some supplementary training, rather than having to be certified on a new aircraft type. Pilots ultimately were only required to take a brief tablet-based course, rather than training in a simulator, like they would for a new plane. The fact that it was an existing, already certified airframe, which comprise the body and wings of the plane, only with new engines and avionics, it meant that Boeing would not have to undergo the same lengthy certification process it would for an all-new airplane. The desire to retain that commonality is what eventually led to the two crashes, here's why ... The engines on the Max were larger, positioned further forward, and higher up on the wing than the engines on the 737NG. That caused the plane to behave differently. For example, it could cause the nose of the plane to pitch upward in some situations, like low-speed flight, or flight with a high angle-of-attack, when the plane is being flown manually. To compensate for that, Boeing designed automated software called Maneuvering Control Augmentation System (MCAS), which would automatically activate to stabilize the pitch and nudge the aircraft's nose back down "so that it feels and flies like other 737s." Notably, however, Boeing did not include training on MCAS in the pilots' manual, reasoning that the software would work in the background. The manual did include discussion about the trim stabilizer, however. MCAS would only activate when the plane was being hand-flown, meaning when autopilot was off. The plane would have to be flying relatively slowly, and the nose would have to be pointing high enough — or the angle-of-attack would need to be high enough — to be at risk of causing the plane to stall. Crucially, MCAS was designed to take effect when just a single sensor showed that the angle-of-attack was high. That meant that if one of the two sensors was damaged or faulty, it could activate. When the 737 Max was announced, it already had a not-quite-firm order from American Airlines. By November 2011, Boeing said that it had 700 commitments. Fast-forward almost exactly four years to August 2015: the first 737 Max fuselage rolled off the factory line, and in December, the first plane — a 737 Max 8 named "Spirit of Renton — was finished. The plane was eventually delivered to Southwest. On January 29, 2016, the Max made its first test flight, performing without any unusual incidents. Following a year of test flights and data-gathering, the Max gained certification from the FAA in March 2017, followed by other global regulators later that month. There was a brief snag in May, when engine manufacturer CFM International warned Boeing of a possible manufacturing issue involving turbines in the engine. Boeing halted test flights to inspect the engines, but cleared them within about a week. This issue is not believed to be involved in any way associated with the crashes. The first 737 Max delivery was made on May 16, 2017, to Malindo Air, a subsidiary of the low-cost Indonesian carrier Lion Air. The first passenger flight took off on May 22. Deliveries picked up from there, with Norwegian Air taking the second 737 Max. It took advantage of the Max's extended range to fly a narrow-body transatlantic nonstop between Edinburgh, United Kingdom, and Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. Southwest, the launch customer, took delivery of its first Max in late-August in Dallas, making it the first North American carrier to fly the jet. Today, it's the biggest Max operator in the US. By May 2018 — a year after the first delivery — more than 130 Max planes were in service with 28 different airlines around the world. The Max had flown almost 42,000 flights in that time, moving about 6.5 million passengers, according to Boeing stats. By October 27, 2018, 230 of the 737 Max planes had been delivered to customers around the world. On October 29 at 6:20 a.m., Lion Air flight 610 took off from Jakarta, Indonesia. The plane being used for that flight, a 737 Max 8, had given incorrect speed and altitude readings on a previous trip, but was kept in service anyway. As soon as the plane took off, pilots received a warning that the plane was in danger of stalling. Pilots could not ascertain their speed or altitude, and told air-traffic controllers that they were "experiencing a flight control problem." The nose of the plane seemed like it was being forced downward. Twelve minutes into the flight, the plane crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board. Indonesia's Transportation Ministry ordered emergency inspections on all of the 737 Max 8s within the country — all were determined to be airworthy within two days. Within days of the Lion Air crash, the investigation began to focus on the MCAS technology and the pilots' reaction to the system. On November 6, the FAA and Boeing said that they planned to issue an Airworthiness Directive warning about possible trim stabilizer control issues due to faulty angle-of-attack indicators. Although Boeing did not call MCAS out by that name, it argued that the Flight Crew Operation Manual described the function, and how to override it. During all of this, airlines around the world continued flying the Max, and Boeing continued to build and deliver more of the planes. By March 10, Boeing had delivered 386 of the 737 Max jets. On March 10 at 8:38 a.m., Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 took off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Within one minute, the pilots reported a flight-control issue. A minute later, MCAS activated, pitching the nose downward. The pilots struggled to control the plane, but MCAS activated again. The pilots disabled the electrical trim tab system, per protocol, but were unable to manually turn the wheel that would change the trim by hand, partly because they had inadvertently left the engines on full thrust from takeoff. Six minutes after takeoff, the plane slammed into the ground at 700 miles per hour. All 157 people on board were killed. MCAS was again cited as a contributing cause, combined with the fact that pilots could not adjust the stabilizer trim by hand. While there was an electronic system to help turn the trim wheel, that system was disabled by the same switch that disabled MCAS. On March 10, the day of the accident, Ethiopian Airlines grounded the rest of its 737 Max aircraft. On March 11, the Chinese aviation authority — the Civil Aviation Administration of China, or CAAC — ordered the country's airlines to stop flying the plane. Regulators around the world followed, parking their 737 Max planes on March 11 and 12. The FAA was a lone holdout, initially reaffirming that the plane was airworthy. However, the agency followed its international counterparts and ordered the plane grounded on March 13. The planes have remained grounded since, as Boeing has worked to complete a software redesign and improve recovery procedures from errant flight system activations. After the second crash, Boeing said that it was working on a software fix, which it expected to distribute within a few weeks. The FAA had said it expected the software to be approved by the end of March, but it announced a delay in early April, saying that it anticipated receiving "Boeing’s final package of its software enhancement over the coming weeks for FAA approval." However, that delay stretched on as Boeing and the FAA continued to scrutinize the plane. Eventually, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the plane maker expected to submit the final fix to the FAA in September and fly the necessary certification flights, with approval coming — and the grounding lifting — in the fourth quarter of 2019. In April, Boeing cut production of the plane by 10 units — from 52 to 42 per month — although it said that it would be able to ramp back up once deliveries resume. It also said that it could further cut or suspend production if the grounding continued into 2020. As the company works to get the plane flying again, airlines have been forced to cut capacity, cancel flights, and revise their expansion plans. Meanwhile, numerous investigations and lawsuits are ongoing, exploring how Boeing allowed it to be possible for MCAS to activate from a single faulty sensor reading, and how the FAA didn't catch the potential flaw. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg testified in front of Congress in late October. In November, 2019, Boeing said it completed the first phase of recertification, and that it expected to begin delivering finished but grounded jets to airline customers the following month, with commercial flights approved in January. However, in mid-December, FAA administrator Steve Dickson said that Boeing's timeline was "not realistic," essentially confirming that the plane would not fly again before 2020. That statement came after Dickson testified on Capitol Hill about the plane's certification. One jarring detail that emerged in the hearing: After the first crash, an internal FAA analysis showed a high likelihood of future crashes, as many as 15 over the 30-40 year life of the jet. However, the FAA let the plane keep flying. As airlines continue to cancel Max flights — now through April — Boeing is racing to get the plane recertified as quickly as possible — while also making sure the plane is safe. Boeing halts 737 Max production. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is out. In January 2020, under new CEO David Calhoun, production at Boeing's Renton, Washington 737 factory was officially halted. As Boeing revealed its 2019 financial results, it became clear just how impactful the 737 Max calamity has been for the company. Also in January, internal Boeing emails and messages surfaced in which employees mocked the FAA, airline customers, and discussed safety concerns related to the 737 Max. Meanwhile, foreign object debris, or FOD, has been found in stored 737 Max planes, indicating a major quality control problem. As the two-year anniversary of the Lion Air 610 crash passes, the 737 Max remains grounded around the world. As the coronavirus pandemic decimated demand for air travel and squeezed airlines' finances, this has not necessarily been a bad thing for carriers. But the 737 Max is poised to make its return, 20 months after the global fleet was grounded. Virtually every major step in the recertification process has been completed as of late-October. While airlines will have a lot of leg work to do before putting the plane back into service, the incredible grounding of the 737 Max is almost over, although investigations, lawsuits, and hearings are expected to continue for years. FAQs Videos

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David Slotnick

Updated

2020-10-29T17:55:00Z

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (1)

Boeing
  • When the 737 Max entered service in 2017, Boeing touted it as the next generation of a tried-and-tested workhorse of consumer aviation.
  • The Max, a 737 with more fuel-efficient engines and updated avionics and cabins, would have longer range, a lower operating cost, and enough in common with previous models so that pilots could switch back and forth between the two with ease.
  • However, two fatal crashes involving the plane within five months of each other, which killed a combined 346 people, have led to questions about the plane's design and features. The crashes have also called attention to training standards, regulatory oversight, and pilot experience.
  • Since the second crash in March 2019, the plane has been grounded around the world as Boeing works to fix what appears to be a fundamental design flaw. As the second anniversary of the first crash passes, the Max is nearing its return to passenger service.
  • From the first designs, to the crashes, the groundings, all the way through today, here is the timeline of the Boeing 737 Max.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Boeing 737 first flew in 1967. That model plane, the 737-100, along with a slightly longer version, the -200, were the original generation.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (2)

Lufthansa

In 1979, Boeing began to develop a major revamp of the 737. Making their debuts in the 1980s and early 90s, the 737-300, -400, and -500 came to be known as the 737 Classic series.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (3)

Flickr/Aero Icarus

In the early 1990s, Boeing began working on another 737 update. These planes, which entered service in the late 1990s and early 2000s, were known as the 737NG. The "NG" meant "next generation." Many of these planes are still in service today with orders still being delivered in 2019. The 737NG planes will likely continue to fly for many more years.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (4)

Boeing

The performance of the 737NG meant it was essentially a whole new aircraft family compared to the Classic, but it kept enough important commonality with the Classic that upgrading or operating mixed fleets would be easier and more cost-effective for customers. The airframe received upgrades, the wings were redesigned, and the flight deck and cabin were improved.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (5)

Flickr/Aero Icarus

Between the originals, the Classics, and the NGs, the 737 has been one of the best-selling commercial jetliners of all time. More than 10,000 have been delivered worldwide.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (6)

Saul Loeb/AFP

In 2006, Boeing began to discuss a successor for the 737NG. For a while, as the plane maker mulled the next step, it considered both replacing the 737 with a brand-new airplane, or re-engining the 737NG with more efficient engines, and making other changes for a newer generation.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (7)

Reuters

By summer 2010, Boeing still hadn't made a decision, and analysts expected that it wouldn't until the following year.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (8)

Associated Press

Then, in December 2010, rival Airbus announced the A320neo family (neo = "new engine option"), a re-engined, more efficient version of its A320, the main competitor to the 737.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (9)

Reuters

Boeing knew the A320neo was coming, but was still taking its time to decide on the ideal, productive, and most sustainable solution to combat it — in spring 2011, the company was still leaning toward building a new plane, rather than re-engining the existing 737 airframe.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (10)

Airbus

Then, W. James McNerney, Jr., Boeing's CEO at the time, received a call from American Airlines' chief executive, Gerard Arpey. Arpey reportedly said that his airline was close to a deal for hundreds of Airbus narrow-body aircraft, warning that Boeing had to be more aggressive and timely to win its business.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (11)

American Airlines

Until that point, American Airlines had exclusively purchased from Boeing for more than a decade. Desperate to win the order, Boeing ditched the idea of designing a whole new airplane — which could take up to 10 years to get in the air — and instead pivoted to placing new engines on the 737 to create another new generation of the workhorse.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (12)

AP
(Video) This Is What Happens To Your Body If You Die In A Plane Crash

It took a few months to finalize the design, but it wasn't quite fast enough to prevent American Airlines from defecting. In July, the carrier announced its order for 130 A320ceo and 130 A320neo jets, with an option for 365 more. It also said that it would order 100 of Boeing's not-quite-ready next-generation 737.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (13)

Airbus

Just one month later, Boeing announced the 737 Max family, consisting of three differently sized models: the 737 Max 7, Max 8, and Max 9.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (14)

Boeing

The design of the 737 Max had a few appeals for both Boeing and, more importantly, the airline customers to which it had to sell the planes.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (15)

Boeing

As with the transition from the 737 Classic to the 737NG, the 737 Max retained a great degree of commonality with its predecessors, meaning one pool of pilots and ground staff could work on both planes, with some supplementary training, rather than having to be certified on a new aircraft type.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (16)

Southwest Airlines

Pilots ultimately were only required to take a brief tablet-based course, rather than training in a simulator, like they would for a new plane.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (17)

Eric Piermont/AFP Photo/Getty Images

The fact that it was an existing, already certified airframe, which comprise the body and wings of the plane, only with new engines and avionics, it meant that Boeing would not have to undergo the same lengthy certification process it would for an all-new airplane.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (18)

Boeing

The desire to retain that commonality is what eventually led to the two crashes, here's why ...

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (19)

REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

The engines on the Max were larger, positioned further forward, and higher up on the wing than the engines on the 737NG. That caused the plane to behave differently. For example, it could cause the nose of the plane to pitch upward in some situations, like low-speed flight, or flight with a high angle-of-attack, when the plane is being flown manually.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (20)

Boeing

To compensate for that, Boeing designed automated software called Maneuvering Control Augmentation System (MCAS), which would automatically activate to stabilize the pitch and nudge the aircraft's nose back down "so that it feels and flies like other 737s."

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (21)

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Notably, however, Boeing did not include training on MCAS in the pilots' manual, reasoning that the software would work in the background. The manual did include discussion about the trim stabilizer, however.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (22)

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

MCAS would only activate when the plane was being hand-flown, meaning when autopilot was off. The plane would have to be flying relatively slowly, and the nose would have to be pointing high enough — or the angle-of-attack would need to be high enough — to be at risk of causing the plane to stall.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (23)

Boeing

Crucially, MCAS was designed to take effect when just a single sensor showed that the angle-of-attack was high. That meant that if one of the two sensors was damaged or faulty, it could activate.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (24)

Boeing

When the 737 Max was announced, it already had a not-quite-firm order from American Airlines. By November 2011, Boeing said that it had 700 commitments.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (25)

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Fast-forward almost exactly four years to August 2015: the first 737 Max fuselage rolled off the factory line, and in December, the first plane — a 737 Max 8 named "Spirit of Renton — was finished. The plane was eventually delivered to Southwest.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (26)

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

On January 29, 2016, the Max made its first test flight, performing without any unusual incidents.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (27)

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Following a year of test flights and data-gathering, the Max gained certification from the FAA in March 2017, followed by other global regulators later that month.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (28)

REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

(Video) Why Greed Causes Planes to Crash | System Error

There was a brief snag in May, when engine manufacturer CFM International warned Boeing of a possible manufacturing issue involving turbines in the engine. Boeing halted test flights to inspect the engines, but cleared them within about a week. This issue is not believed to be involved in any way associated with the crashes.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (29)

Boeing

The first 737 Max delivery was made on May 16, 2017, to Malindo Air, a subsidiary of the low-cost Indonesian carrier Lion Air.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (30)

Boeing

The first passenger flight took off on May 22.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (31)

Boeing

Deliveries picked up from there, with Norwegian Air taking the second 737 Max. It took advantage of the Max's extended range to fly a narrow-body transatlantic nonstop between Edinburgh, United Kingdom, and Bradley International Airport in Connecticut.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (32)

Boeing

Southwest, the launch customer, took delivery of its first Max in late-August in Dallas, making it the first North American carrier to fly the jet. Today, it's the biggest Max operator in the US.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (33)

REUTERS/Mike Blake

By May 2018 — a year after the first delivery — more than 130 Max planes were in service with 28 different airlines around the world. The Max had flown almost 42,000 flights in that time, moving about 6.5 million passengers, according to Boeing stats.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (34)

REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

By October 27, 2018, 230 of the 737 Max planes had been delivered to customers around the world.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (35)

Aerolineas Argentinas

On October 29 at 6:20 a.m., Lion Air flight 610 took off from Jakarta, Indonesia.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (36)

Nicole Evatt/Associated Press

The plane being used for that flight, a 737 Max 8, had given incorrect speed and altitude readings on a previous trip, but was kept in service anyway.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (37)

Reuters

As soon as the plane took off, pilots received a warning that the plane was in danger of stalling. Pilots could not ascertain their speed or altitude, and told air-traffic controllers that they were "experiencing a flight control problem." The nose of the plane seemed like it was being forced downward.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (38)

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Twelve minutes into the flight, the plane crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (39)

REUTERS/Beawiharta

Indonesia's Transportation Ministry ordered emergency inspections on all of the 737 Max 8s within the country — all were determined to be airworthy within two days.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (40)

Eddy Purwanto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Within days of the Lion Air crash, the investigation began to focus on the MCAS technology and the pilots' reaction to the system.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (41)

Antara Foto/Muhammad Adimaja via REUTERS

On November 6, the FAA and Boeing said that they planned to issue an Airworthiness Directive warning about possible trim stabilizer control issues due to faulty angle-of-attack indicators.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (42)

REUTERS/Stringer

Although Boeing did not call MCAS out by that name, it argued that the Flight Crew Operation Manual described the function, and how to override it.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (43)

Ed Wray/Getty Images

During all of this, airlines around the world continued flying the Max, and Boeing continued to build and deliver more of the planes.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (44)

Boeing

By March 10, Boeing had delivered 386 of the 737 Max jets.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (45)

Boeing

On March 10 at 8:38 a.m., Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 took off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (46)

Mulugeta Ayene/Associated Press

Within one minute, the pilots reported a flight-control issue. A minute later, MCAS activated, pitching the nose downward. The pilots struggled to control the plane, but MCAS activated again. The pilots disabled the electrical trim tab system, per protocol, but were unable to manually turn the wheel that would change the trim by hand, partly because they had inadvertently left the engines on full thrust from takeoff.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (47)

Boeing
(Video) Still Unsafe At Any Altitude

Six minutes after takeoff, the plane slammed into the ground at 700 miles per hour. All 157 people on board were killed.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (48)

REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

MCAS was again cited as a contributing cause, combined with the fact that pilots could not adjust the stabilizer trim by hand. While there was an electronic system to help turn the trim wheel, that system was disabled by the same switch that disabled MCAS.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (49)

REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

On March 10, the day of the accident, Ethiopian Airlines grounded the rest of its 737 Max aircraft.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (50)

Mulugeta Ayene/AP

On March 11, the Chinese aviation authority — the Civil Aviation Administration of China, or CAAC — ordered the country's airlines to stop flying the plane.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (51)

Boeing

Regulators around the world followed, parking their 737 Max planes on March 11 and 12.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (52)

Boeing

The FAA was a lone holdout, initially reaffirming that the plane was airworthy. However, the agency followed its international counterparts and ordered the plane grounded on March 13.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (53)

Elaine Thompson/AP

The planes have remained grounded since, as Boeing has worked to complete a software redesign and improve recovery procedures from errant flight system activations.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (54)

David Ryder/Getty Images

After the second crash, Boeing said that it was working on a software fix, which it expected to distribute within a few weeks.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (55)

REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

The FAA had said it expected the software to be approved by the end of March, but it announced a delay in early April, saying that it anticipated receiving "Boeing’s final package of its software enhancement over the coming weeks for FAA approval."

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (56)

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

However, that delay stretched on as Boeing and the FAA continued to scrutinize the plane. Eventually, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the plane maker expected to submit the final fix to the FAA in September and fly the necessary certification flights, with approval coming — and the grounding lifting — in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (57)

REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

In April, Boeing cut production of the plane by 10 units — from 52 to 42 per month — although it said that it would be able to ramp back up once deliveries resume. It also said that it could further cut or suspend production if the grounding continued into 2020.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (58)

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

As the company works to get the plane flying again, airlines have been forced to cut capacity, cancel flights, and revise their expansion plans.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (59)

Southwest Airlines

Meanwhile, numerous investigations and lawsuits are ongoing, exploring how Boeing allowed it to be possible for MCAS to activate from a single faulty sensor reading, and how the FAA didn't catch the potential flaw.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (60)

Reuters

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg testified in front of Congress in late October.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (61)

Sarah Silbiger/Reuters

He said that the aviation company has improved the aircraft in such a way "that will ensure that accidents like these never happen again." However, he admitted that Boeing made mistakes over two days of dramatic testimony.

In November, 2019, Boeing said it completed the first phase of recertification, and that it expected to begin delivering finished but grounded jets to airline customers the following month, with commercial flights approved in January.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (62)

Reuters

However, in mid-December, FAA administrator Steve Dickson said that Boeing's timeline was "not realistic," essentially confirming that the plane would not fly again before 2020.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (63)

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

(Video) How India will fuel the growth of Boeing after the 737 Max Debacle

That statement came after Dickson testified on Capitol Hill about the plane's certification. One jarring detail that emerged in the hearing: After the first crash, an internal FAA analysis showed a high likelihood of future crashes, as many as 15 over the 30-40 year life of the jet. However, the FAA let the plane keep flying.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (64)

Reuters

As airlines continue to cancel Max flights — now through April — Boeing is racing to get the plane recertified as quickly as possible — while also making sure the plane is safe.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (65)

American Airlines

Boeing halts 737 Max production.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (66)

David Ryder/Getty Images

Boeing will temporarily stop production of the 737 Max plane in January. The company said no layoffs or furloughs were expected among the 12,000 employees who work at Boeing's Renton, Washington, factory but that may not be the case for the company's many suppliers that make parts for the plane.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is out.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (67)

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Dennis Muilenburg was fired from his chief executive role effective immediately on Monday, Boeing's board of directors announced. Late into December, the company continued to struggle with the 737 Max crisis as it prepares to enter 2020 with a temporary production halt in place on the 737 Max line.

Despite leaving with no severance, Muilenburg still took home $62 million from a variety of other "contractually entitled" benefits.

In January 2020, under new CEO David Calhoun, production at Boeing's Renton, Washington 737 factory was officially halted.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (68)

Nick Oxford/Reuters

Following the holiday break, Boeing officially halted production at the factory. Although Boeing's own employees were temporarily reassigned to other tasks and teams, the halt led to a ripple effect of economic damage through Boeing's global supply chain, with companies big and small forced to lay off workers.

As Boeing revealed its 2019 financial results, it became clear just how impactful the 737 Max calamity has been for the company.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (69)

Reuters

Boeing had its worst year in at least three decades in terms of aircraft orders and deliveries, losing more aircraft orders than were placed for a net negative. That caused Boeing to lose the title of world's biggest airplane-maker to rival Airbus.

The company also posted its first full-year loss in more than 20 years.

Boeing's shares slid, the president described the company as "disappointing,"

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said that the grounding could shave half a point from the country's GDP in 2020.

Also in January, internal Boeing emails and messages surfaced in which employees mocked the FAA, airline customers, and discussed safety concerns related to the 737 Max.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (70)

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

The emails provided more ammunition for Boeing's critics, who said they were evidence of a systemic problem with both the company and the airplane.

"This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys," one employee wrote in an instant message, while another wrote in 2018 that "I still haven't been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year."

Meanwhile, foreign object debris, or FOD, has been found in stored 737 Max planes, indicating a major quality control problem.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (71)

REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

Each of the 400 stored airplanes will have to be inspected, although Boeing said this should not impact the plane's return to service.

As the two-year anniversary of the Lion Air 610 crash passes, the 737 Max remains grounded around the world. As the coronavirus pandemic decimated demand for air travel and squeezed airlines' finances, this has not necessarily been a bad thing for carriers.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (72)

REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

But the 737 Max is poised to make its return, 20 months after the global fleet was grounded.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (73)

United Airlines

Virtually every major step in the recertification process has been completed as of late-October.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (74)

JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty

Test flights have been completed with Boeing's proposed fixes, and several training reviews are near completion. The FAA is expected to lift the grounding order in the coming days or weeks, and American Airlines has said it could fly the plane in commercial service as soon as December 29.

While airlines will have a lot of leg work to do before putting the plane back into service, the incredible grounding of the 737 Max is almost over, although investigations, lawsuits, and hearings are expected to continue for years.

The first Boeing 737 Max crash was 2 years ago today. Here's the complete history of the plane that's been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart. (75)

Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

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FAQs

What was the first 737 MAX crash? ›

The Boeing 737 MAX passenger airliner was grounded worldwide between March 2019 and December 2020 – longer in many jurisdictions – after 346 people died in two crashes: Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019.

Why did 2 Boeing 737 MAX crash? ›

The 737 Max

Boeing's 737 Max suffered two fatal crashes, in 2018 and 2019, that were shown to be caused by a design flaw and led to a global grounding of the aircraft. Those crashes resulted in the 20-month grounding of the 737 Max, costing Boeing tens of billions of dollars.

What really happened to Boeing 737 MAX? ›

Out of control

Regulators around the world banned the plane in 2019 following revelations that an automated flight-control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, could malfunction, sending the plane into a dive, which it apparently did in both fatal crashes.

How much did 737 MAX victims get? ›

We ask to be heard." The January 2021 agreement included a $500 million compensation fund for victims' relatives, $1.77 billion in compensation to the airlines and a $243 million criminal fine.

Is the Boeing 737 Max 8 safe to fly? ›

You should feel completely confident that we have taken all the necessary steps to confirm that our 737 MAX aircraft are as safe as any of our aircraft flying today.

Are Boeing 737 Max still grounded? ›

Since the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX was lifted in November 2020, the airplane has made a strident return to the fleets of dozens of airlines around the globe.

Is Boeing 737 800 the same as 737 MAX? ›

Comparing the 737 MAX 8 directly to the 737-800 on numbers alone, it quickly becomes evident that the newer MAX series has a longer range and the ability to carry an extra 18 fare-paying customers in a two-class setup. The MAX 200's high-density layout also allows it to hold more passengers than one-class 737-800s.

How much do plane crash victims get? ›

The US courts have given the highest compensation, with the latest research establishing that the average value of a life lost in a US general aviation accident (light aircraft, business jets, helicopters, etc.) is US$5.2m.

How many times has a Boeing 737 crashed? ›

In the first decade of the 2000s, there were a total of 31 reported incidents involving all variations of the Boeing 737, only four of which reported no fatalities. In the 2010s, there were 20 reported incidents, including the two Boeing 737 Max crashes. Of those 20 incidents, eight reported no loss of life.

Why do 737 MAX keep crashing? ›

It's been widely reported that Boeing's decision to use a flight control software fix known as MCAS in its 737 MAX planes was one of the key factors that led to two crashes that killed 346 people.

Who went to jail for 737 MAX? ›

The pilot, Mark Forkner, was the only person to face criminal charges for flaws that resulted in two fatal crashes of one of Boeing's most important planes.

Who is currently flying the 737 MAX? ›

581 active Boeing 737 MAXs
AirlineMAX 8MAX 9
United Airlines1630
American Airlines40
Aeromexico2610
Air Canada34
12 more rows
14 May 2022

How much did Boeing pay victims? ›

As a result, Boeing agreed to establish a $500 million fund to compensate the families of those who died, pay a fine of nearly $244 million and pay $1.77 billion in compensation to airlines.

Did Boeing families get paid? ›

Nearly $1.8 billion of the settlement money was set aside for airlines that lost money because their planes were grounded. Another $500 million went into a fund for victims' relatives, and Boeing agreed to pay a $243.6 million fine.

Why was Boeing not criminally prosecuted? ›

A federal judge ruled Friday that relatives of people killed in the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max planes are crime victims under federal law and should have been told about private negotiations over a settlement that spared Boeing from criminal prosecution. The full impact of the ruling is not yet clear, however.

Is it safe to take Boeing 737 MAX? ›

Is the Max airplane safe? It is, now. Boeing engineers have modified the MCAS, made it less obtrusive, and kept it under the pilots' control unlike earlier. Also, Aviation Regulators the world over, being 'once bitten twice shy', have mandated Ground Training and Simulator Training for the pilots.

Is Boeing safer than Airbus? ›

Which is safer: Boeing or Airbus? But this question is not really relevant, since both Boeing and Airbus have remarkably similar safety records. The differences between Airbus, Boeing, and Bombardier are minor, all of them being more dangerous than Embraer but far safer than ATR or Sukhoi.

Can a 737 fly to Hawaii? ›

United Airlines Boeing 737 Hawaii flights.

United has been flying its extensive fleet of more than 300 737s to Hawaii for many years. We don't recall a start date, do you? Their fleet includes -700, -800, -900, -900ER, and -MAX variants. United's Boeing 737 Hawaii flights are to and from California airports.

What are the safest aircraft? ›

According to experts, the model (737-800) is considered to be the safest aircraft ever made. The 737-800 belongs to the aviation giant's next-generation aircraft which also includes 600, 700, and 900.

Is a Boeing 737 safe? ›

The Boeing 737 NG models are the third-safest planes in the world with a crash rate of just . 07 crashes per million flights through 2017, according to the nonprofit Airsafe.

How many Boeing 737 are still flying? ›

Which airlines fly Boeing 737-800? Nearly all of the major airlines operating in the U.S. fly the aircraft. There are 4,500 of the jets in service globally.

When was the second Boeing 737 Max crash? ›

In October 2018 and March 2019, two fatal crashes of 737 MAX aircraft led to a worldwide grounding of all 737 MAX aircraft until December 2020.

How many times has a Boeing 737 crashed? ›

In the first decade of the 2000s, there were a total of 31 reported incidents involving all variations of the Boeing 737, only four of which reported no fatalities. In the 2010s, there were 20 reported incidents, including the two Boeing 737 Max crashes. Of those 20 incidents, eight reported no loss of life.

Which version of the 737 MAX is grounded? ›

Older 737 models, like the 737-700, 737-800 and 737-900, don't use MCAS and weren't affected. Of the four 737 Max versions, only the Max 10 has yet to fly.

Has Boeing 737-800 ever crashed? ›

A Boeing 737-800 operated by China Eastern suddenly plunged from an altitude of about 30,000 feet on Monday in China's Guangxi region, likely killing all 132 people on board.

Did Boeing pay families? ›

As a result, Boeing agreed to establish a $500 million fund to compensate the families of those who died, pay a fine of nearly $244 million and pay $1.77 billion in compensation to airlines.

How many flights did the 737 Max make before it was grounded? ›

Effect on MAX flights

At the time of its grounding, the MAX was operating 8,600 flights per week. About thirty Boeing 737 MAX aircraft were airborne in U.S. airspace when the FAA grounding order was announced. The airplanes were allowed to continue to their destinations and were then grounded.

Which Boeing plane is the safest? ›

The Boeing Co. 737-800 NG model that crashed in China on Monday is considered one of the safest aircraft ever made.

How many planes crashed in 2022 so far? ›

accidentsfatalities
20229202
5-yr-avg.9209

Is Boeing 737-800 the same as 737 MAX? ›

Comparing the 737 MAX 8 directly to the 737-800 on numbers alone, it quickly becomes evident that the newer MAX series has a longer range and the ability to carry an extra 18 fare-paying customers in a two-class setup. The MAX 200's high-density layout also allows it to hold more passengers than one-class 737-800s.

Who went to jail for 737 MAX? ›

The pilot, Mark Forkner, was the only person to face criminal charges for flaws that resulted in two fatal crashes of one of Boeing's most important planes.

How long can a plane be grounded for? ›

Opportunity to Leave the Plane

For flights departing from a U.S. airport, airlines are required to begin to move the airplane to a location where passengers can safely get off before 3 hours for domestic flights and 4 hours for international flights.

Which airlines fly the Boeing 737 MAX? ›

Is Ethiopian Airlines jumping the gun? So far, 13 airlines have resumed flying Boeing's 737 Max. These include The Ryanair Group of Ireland, Air Canada, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and India-based SpiceJet.

Are Boeing 737 planes safe? ›

There are differences in the aircraft, and Aerovise aviation expert Josh Verde told USA TODAY the Boeing 737-800 is a "tremendously safe airplane." Most accidents involving the plane have been runway-related.

Is Airbus or Boeing safer? ›

Which is safer: Boeing or Airbus? But this question is not really relevant, since both Boeing and Airbus have remarkably similar safety records. The differences between Airbus, Boeing, and Bombardier are minor, all of them being more dangerous than Embraer but far safer than ATR or Sukhoi.

Is Boeing 737-800 a safe plane? ›

“The 737-800 that crashed in southern China's Guangxi province 'is one of the safest aircraft ever produced in commercial operation. It's one of the most widely used aircraft around the world.

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