On March 10th, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed a few minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board. This followed the October crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia that killed all 189 passengers and crew. The plane involved in both crashes is the Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner, one of the best-selling airplanes in history.
In response, airline regulators around the world have grounded the plane as investigators continue to sift through the wreckage of both crashes to determine what went wrong. That investigation is ongoing, but it has focused on the Max 8’s stall-prevention system, apparent maintenance lapses, and potential pilot error.
Boeing’s response has been to update the Max 8’s flight control systems, pilot displays, operation manuals, and crew training. But the airline manufacturer and the Federal Aviation Administration are now facing questions about the certification, and criminal inquiries could be a result.
Apr 9, 2021
Boeing has recommended that airlines temporarily take the 737 Max out of service because of an issue with the plane’s electrical systems. It’s the latest in a now very long line of problems that have cropped up with this particular plane since two of them crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people. But it’s the first to ground the plane since the Federal Aviation Administration approved its return and it went back into service late last year.Read Article >
The new problem has to do with whether there is “a sufficient ground path” for a particular component of the plane’s electrical power system, according to Boeing. Southwest Airlines, which is the most dependent in the US on the 737 Max, has already grounded 30 of the planes, while American Airlines has pulled 17 and United Airlines has pulled 16, according to Reuters. This all comes as air travel is rebounding in a big way in the US, thanks to a dramatic increase in vaccinations against the coronavirus.
Jan 7, 2021
Boeing has been criminally charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States by the Department of Justice and will have to pay a $2.5 billion fine for lying to the Federal Aviation Administration before and after the fatal 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019.Read Article >
The Justice Department announced the charges and fine, which were part of a deferred prosecution agreement, on Thursday. The $2.5 billion fine includes a $243.6 million “criminal monetary penalty,” $1.77 billion that will be paid out to airlines that were customers of the plane, and $500 million that will go to a fund to help families and relatives of the people who died in the two crashes.
Dec 18, 2020
Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) worked together to manipulate 737 Max recertification tests following two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019, according to a damning new Senate report. Boeing “inappropriately coached” some FAA test pilots to reach a desired outcome during the recertification tests, and some were even performed on simulators that weren’t equipped to re-create the same conditions as the crashes.Read Article >
In doing this, the Senate report’s authors say the “FAA and Boeing were attempting to cover up important information that may have contributed to the 737 MAX tragedies.”
Dec 9, 2020
Boeing’s troubled 737 Max made its first commercial flight since March 2019 today, marking the end of a 20-month grounding following two deadly crashes that killed 346 people. Brazil’s Gol Airlines was the first in the world to put paying customers on the plane again since the Federal Aviation Administration approved its return to flight in November. A 737 Max 8 ferried passengers from Sao Paulo to Porto Alegre, according to The Associated Press.Read Article >
Gol Airlines told the publication it plans to use the 737 Max in regular service starting later this month, and passengers who don’t want to fly on the plane will be able to exchange their tickets.
Aug 3, 2020
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a “preliminary summary” of its 18-month review of the Boeing 737 Max program, and with it, has detailed the remaining steps the company will likely need to take in order to allow the plane back into the air. Among the changes the agency is asking for is new software for the plane’s flight control computer and displays, a revised manual and enhanced training for flight crew, and new maintenance procedures. A few key issues remain unfinished, though, like finalizing a new pilot training process.Read Article >
The FAA laid out the changes both in the 96-page summary and in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published on Monday. The public will have 45 days to comment on the latter before the agency officially requires Boeing to make the changes. It won’t be until after that, at the earliest, that the FAA would re-certify the 737 Max, meaning the plane is still likely months away from being put back into service.
Jun 29, 2020
Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began a series of test flights on Monday to determine whether the 737 Max should be allowed back in the air, after it was involved in two deadly crashes that killed 346 people in 2018 and 2019. The tests are expected to last around three days.Read Article >
“While the certification flights are an important milestone, a number of key tasks remain,” the FAA said in a statement. “The FAA is following a deliberate process and will take the time it needs to thoroughly review Boeing’s work. We will lift the grounding order only after we are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards.”
May 27, 2020
Boeing said it would resume manufacturing the troubled 737 Max airplane after a nearly five-month hiatus. The aerospace company said it would restart production “at a low rate as it implements more than a dozen initiatives focused on enhancing workplace safety and product quality.”Read Article >
The Boeing 737 Max has been grounded since March 2019 following two fatal crashes that killed a total of 346 passengers and crew members. Boeing continued to manufacture the airplane, but in December 2019, the company announced plans to halt production at its Renton, Washington manufacturing plant.
Feb 6, 2020
Boeing has discovered another software problem on the beleaguered 737 Max that will have to be fixed before the airplane returns to the skies, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. It’s at least the third different software problem that has been discovered since the plane was grounded in March of last year following a pair of fatal crashes that claimed the lives of 346 people.Read Article >
The new issue apparently has to do with a warning light that helps tell pilots when the trim system — a part of the plane that can lift or lower the nose — isn’t working. Federal Aviation Administration head Steve Dickson said during a talk in London on Thursday that the light was “staying on for longer than a desired period,” according to Bloomberg.
Jan 21, 2020
Boeing on Tuesday announced that it’s now estimating its troubled 737 Max aircraft won’t fly again until at least mid-2020, a delay from the earlier January 2020 time frame. The newly announced delay means that the 737 Max will have been grounded for at least a year, regardless of when it returns to flight.Read Article >
The news was issued as a press release on Boeing’s website, and the company says it will be informing customers and suppliers of the revised timeline. The new window is in line with a previously revised estimate from the US airlines that fly the 737 Max, each of which had pushed back commercial flights using the plane until at least June.
Boeing employees discussed the problems with the 737 Max in chats and emails that the company characterized as “completely unacceptable” in a statement released today. “Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t,” one employee said to another in one chat in February 2018, according to documents obtained by The Verge and originally reported by The New York Times. “No,” the other person replied.Read Article >
“I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year,” a Boeing employee said in a different 2018 conversation, according to the documents. The employee appears to be referring to interactions with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Dec 23, 2019
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is leaving the company a little more than one year after the first of two fatal crashes involving the company’s 737 Max aircraft, the company announced Monday. Boeing says Muilenburg resigned in its press release, though it also says that the board of directors “decided that a change in leadership was necessary.” The New York Times reports that he was fired.Read Article >
Muilenburg will be replaced by David L. Calhoun, who currently serves as the chairman of Boeing’s board of directors. Calhoun will also become the company’s president and will retain his chairman post. There will be a “brief transition period” while Calhoun “exits his non-Boeing commitments,” during which the company’s chief financial officer Greg Smith will serve as interim CEO. (Calhoun is currently the head of the private equity arm of major financial firm Blackstone, and spent nearly three decades at General Electric, where ran the conglomerate’s transportation and aircraft engine businesses.) Muilenburg will also lose his board seat.
Dec 16, 2019
Boeing will suspend production of the 737 Max — the airplane involved in two fatal crashes that took the lives of 346 people — in January, the company announced Monday. The news was first reported by the The Wall Street Journal and CNBC.Read Article >
It’s unclear how long the production halt will last, and Boeing says it doesn’t expect the halt to result in layoffs or furloughs. The company has been making about 40 aircraft per month following the 737 Max’s worldwide grounding in March, and has around 400 airplanes in storage. Boeing says it would rather “prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft and temporarily suspend production on the 737 program” in order to maintain “long-term production system and supply chain health.”
Oct 23, 2019
Southwest Airlines began 2019 by celebrating its 46th straight year of profitability and a record-setting $2.5 billion in profits. Its low fares and wide network, with 753 aircraft serving 101 cities in North America, made Southwest the airline of choice for one out of every five domestic air travelers today. But now, Southwest’s bet on the Boeing 737 Max as its airplane of the future might end its streak — and threaten its bottom line for years to come.Read Article >
Since 1987, Southwest has almost exclusively flown a single airplane model: the Boeing 737. That allowed the airline to save on training and maintenance (they would only need one type of simulator, and one common spare parts inventory), and to make skilled personnel such as pilots and mechanics essentially interchangeable, in case someone calls in sick or misses a connection. Southwest was scheduled to replace the oldest jets in their fleet with brand-new 737 Max airplanes, allowing them to burn 5 percent less fuel per flight while carrying up to 20 percent more passengers. And according to one analyst, almost 8 percent of Southwest’s flight capacity was supposed to be flown on its 34 new 737 Maxes.
Jul 26, 2019
Southwest Airlines has announced that it’s moving its operations out of New York’s Newark Airport amid falling revenue resulting from the grounding of the 737 Max. The New York Times reports that the airline will consolidate its flights into nearby La Guardia Airport. Southwest has also cancelled all 737 Max flights until January 5th 2020.Read Article >
Southwest is currently the fifth largest airline to operate out of Newark; 20 of its flights depart from the airport daily, and the airline flew a total of 1.5 million passengers from the airport in the year ending April 2019. Combined with its decision to cancel all 737 Max flights through the rest of 2019, Southwest’s actions are the most drastic response yet to the ongoing problems with Boeing’s 737 Max, which came to light after a fault with the plane’s design resulted in two crashes killing hundreds of people.
Jul 18, 2019
Southwest Airlines has canceled thousands more Boeing 737 Max flights, this time until at least November, after the Federal Aviation Administration recently discovered a new flaw in the plane’s flight software. The company’s announcement follows news that United and American Airlines are also delaying the reintroduction of the 737 Max until November.Read Article >
The three US airlines have spent the last few weeks repeatedly announcing new cancellations as Boeing and the FAA work to re-certify the 737 Max, after it was involved in two fatal crashes within the span of five months that claimed 346 lives.
Jul 14, 2019
Just a couple of days after United Airlines announced that it was canceling more than 5,000 Boeing 737 Max flights through October, American Airlines has announced that it would suspend flights on the beleaguered passenger jet through November 2nd.Read Article >
The airliner had canceled flights through September 3rd, but after the FAA discovered a new problem with the aircraft’s flight computer, it opted to push the aircraft’s return to service until later in the fall.
Jul 12, 2019
United Airlines has extended its cancellation of Boeing 737 Max flights until at least November 3rd, the company announced on Friday, which will affect 5,000 flights through September and October.Read Article >
The airline had previously extended cancellations through September 3rd, following the news that the Federal Aviation Administration had discovered a new flaw in the flight software of Boeing’s 737 Max plane — one that was different from the flaw that led to two deadly crashes that claimed 346 lives. Boeing’s CEO recently acknowledged that the company needs more time to fix this new flaw and that the FAA will have to approve the fix before it recertifies the plane.
Jul 3, 2019
Boeing is starting a $100 million fund for the families and communities of the people who died in the two 737 Max crashes since last October. The company says it will partner with local governments and nonprofit organizations, and that the funds will “support education, hardship and living expenses for impacted families, community programs, and economic development in impacted communities.”Read Article >
The $100 million in funding will be made available over “multiple years,” says Boeing, which generated $101 billion in revenue last year. The company says it will release more information in the “near future.” Boeing also says its employees will be able to make donations to the fund, which the company will match through December 31st, 2019.
Jun 27, 2019
Southwest and United Airlines have extended the cancellation of flights using Boeing 737 Max aircraft, following the news that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has discovered a new flaw in the plane’s flight computer.Read Article >
Southwest Airlines had previously announced it would begin using the 737 Max again starting September 2nd, as long as the plane was re-certified by the FAA. Now, the airline says it won’t start using the plane again until at least October 1st. Some 150 flights will be removed from Southwest’s schedule of 4,000 per day.
Jun 27, 2019
The United States Federal Aviation Administration, which has been investigating Boeing’s grounded 737 Max in the wake of two crashes caused by malfunctions of its onboard systems, has discovered another, unrelated safety flaw. Reuters was first to report the news, with its sources indicating that the new safety issue was discovered in simulator tests last week, and now Boeing faces increased delays — which may include the potential need for hardware fixes — before it’s able to regain certification for airworthiness of its 737 Max.Read Article >
A subsequent emailed statement from the US regulator has confirmed, without elaborating, that “The FAA recently found a potential risk that Boeing must mitigate.” Citing two sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reports that “data processing by a flight computer on the jetliner could cause the plane to dive in a way that pilots had difficulty recovering from in simulator tests.”
Jun 10, 2019
American Airlines won’t use Boeing 737 Max aircraft until at least September, pushing back the expected reintroduction of the troubled plane by at least two more weeks. The airline announced Sunday that, while it “remains confident” that a forthcoming software update and new training efforts from Boeing will be enough to get the 737 Max recertified, it wants to give “customers and team members” ample time to “reliably plan their upcoming travel.”Read Article >
Boeing said in May that it had completed the software update meant to fix the anti-stall system that contributed to two deadly crashes in five months, but that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was holding up the process. Boeing has completed its own test flights using the new software, but still needs to perform a certification flight as part of the FAA’s formal review process.
Officials investigating the deadly crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 have said this morning that the plane suffered from “repetitive uncommanded nose-down” prior to crashing, in an apparent reference to the Boeing aircraft’s controversial automated flight control system. Officials also said that the plane had not been damaged by a foreign object, and stressed that the plane’s pilots followed the correct procedures, but could not prevent the 737 Max 8 from crashing.Read Article >
“The preliminary report clearly showed that the Ethiopian Airlines Pilots who were commanding Flight ET 302/10 March have followed the Boeing recommended and FAA approved emergency procedures to handle the most difficult emergency situation created on the airplane,” reads a statement from Ethiopian Airlines. “Despite their hard work and full compliance with the emergency procedures, it was very unfortunate that they could not recover the airplane from the persistence (of) nose diving.”
Mar 24, 2019
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Federal Aviation Administration has “tentatively approved sweeping software and pilot-training changes” for Boeing’s 737 MAX jet, a fix that could allow pilots to exert more control over an automated system that is thought to have been the cause of a deadly crash in Ethiopia last week, and could allow carriers to being flying the grounded aircraft once again.Read Article >
The WSJ says that the software updates will scale back the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) redesigning it “so it won’t overpower other cockpit commands or misfire based on faulty readings from a single sensor,” and will only activate once, for a short duration in the event that there is an issue. The FAA has “tentatively approved,” the update, but it needs to go through simulations and flight testing. If it works and is formally approved, the update could be issued in “the next few weeks.” The agency didn’t comment to the WSJ about the specifics of the changes. Furthermore, Boeing has said that it will include a warning light designed to warn pilots that was previously part of an optional package that carriers could purchase.
Mar 22, 2019
The crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 have rocked the aviation industry, sparked numerous investigations, and resulted in the grounding of hundreds of Boeing 737 Max jets worldwide.Read Article >
As this important story continues to unfold, The Verge will update this page with all the latest news and analysis. Our hope is to answer all your questions about these tragic events, as well as provide a real-time feed of news about the ensuing investigations.
Mar 21, 2019
The two crashed Boeing airplanes may have lacked safety features that were only available as expensive add-ons, according to The New York Times. Airlines like Indonesia’s Lion Air skimped on the upgrades, hampering crew members who were trying to pull the plane out of its fatal nose dive.Read Article >
Last October, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in Indonesia, killing all 189 passengers and crew members on board. Five months later, on March 10th, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa, and all 157 people on the plane were killed. Both plane crashes involved the Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner, a popular airplane that has since been grounded by airline regulators pending further investigation.