Relax, the FAA Says the Dozens of Boeing 737 Max Planes in the Sky Right Now Are Totally Safe

Illustration for article titled Relax, the FAA Says the Dozens of Boeing 737 Max Planes in the Sky Right Now Are Totally Safeem/em
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Following two devastating crashes involving the Boeing 737 Max-8 aircraft, China and Indonesia have grounded the model from commercial flights pending further investigation. As the general public has become increasingly concerned about the safety of flying on one of the most popular airplanes in the world, the Federal Aviation Administration is issuing a global notice stating confidence in the “continued airworthiness” of Boeing’s jets—dozens of which are likely in the sky above our heads at this very second.

On Sunday, an Ethiopian Airlines flight carrying 157 people crashed just outside the country’s capital Addis Ababa—no one on board the Boeing 737 Max-8 survived. We still don’t know what caused the crash, but the fact that the same model of aircraft operated by Lion Air crashed in October, leaving 189 people dead, was enough to raise concerns that something could be wrong with Boeing’s airliner. In a statement sent to Gizmodo, an FAA spokesperson wrote:

An FAA team is on-site with the NTSB in its investigation of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. We are collecting data and keeping in contact with international civil aviation authorities as information becomes available. Today, the FAA will issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) for Boeing 737 MAX operators. The FAA continuously assesses and oversees the safety performance of U.S. commercial aircraft. If we identify an issue that affects safety, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.


The FAA spokesperson included a document that outlines the efforts the FAA has already taken in investigating the incident. According to the document, the FAA has already reviewed several key aspects of the Lion Air crash from October and deemed the airplane to be safe for flight. It also lists some “flight control system enhancements” that it “anticipates mandating” for Boeing to implement no later than the end of April. The listed enhancements include updated training requirements and manuals.

Boeing 787 Max flights being tracked by Flightradar24
Boeing 787 Max flights being tracked by Flightradar24
Screenshot: Flightradar24

According to Bloomberg, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao answered reporters questions about the investigation while taking an unrelated conference call this afternoon. “We’re obviously very concerned about what’s been happening, and we’re monitoring the situation very carefully because safety is our number one priority,” she said.

Two U.S.-based carriers operate the Max-8: American Airlines and Southwest Air. Both told Gizmodo on Monday morning that they do not currently plan to ground the aircraft in their fleets. According to the FAA, there are currently 74 aircraft in the Boeing 737 Max line operating the U.S. and 387 models flying around the world.


Many Americans on social media are livid with the FAA’s hesitance to ground flights while it investigates the situation further, and airline workers have concerns as well. Lori Bassani, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, told Bloomberg that the organization has “had a few flight attendants who are indicating they are afraid to fly the 737 Max.”

Live air traffic tracker Flightrader24 has an ongoing list of countries and private airlines that have grounded 737 Max flights. The site also has a live feed of the airplanes flight paths around the globe that at the time of writing shows between 60 and 70 of the Boeing aircraft currently traveling over the United States.


As of January, Boeing listed 4,661 outstanding orders for the 737 Max that it had yet to fulfill. With each unit going for around $121 million, the company has a significant interest—about $564 billion—in putting fears to rest.

Anyone who finds themselves worried about an upcoming flight is encouraged to check SeatGuru to find out if they’re scheduled to fly on one of the models that are under investigation.


[FAA, Bloomberg, Flightradar24]

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