The Boeing 737 Max-8 is one of the newest commercial airplanes in the sky. But after yesterday’s crash that killed 157 people in Ethiopia, it’s already involved in two of the deadliest crashes of the past few years. Sadly, another Boeing 737 Max-8 crashed in Indonesia this past October, killing 189 people.
China and Indonesia have grounded all of their Max-8 planes, but the two U.S.-based carriers that operate the Max-8, American Airlines and Southwest Air, have no plans to stop using the aircraft. No other U.S.-based airline currently has the Max-8.
“Our heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the passengers and Employees on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302,” a spokesperson for Southwest said in an email to Gizmodo. “We remain confident in the safety and airworthiness of our fleet of more than 750 Boeing aircraft.”
Southwest has ordered 250 of the Max-8 model from Boeing, but currently has just 34 operating in its fleet. American Airlines ordered 100 from Boeing and currently has 24 in operation.
“American continues to collaborate with the FAA and other regulatory authorities, as the safety of our team members and customers is our number one priority. We have full confidence in the aircraft and our crew members, who are the best and most experienced in the industry,” a spokesperson for American Airlines told Gizmodo over email.
It’s too soon to know what caused the crash in Ethiopia, but the plane may have experienced similar problems to the Lion Air flight that crashed in October. Both crashes happened shortly after takeoff after pilots reportedly experienced issues controlling altitude. In the case of the Lion Air flight, the plane was apparently getting false readings from sensors. After that crash, Boeing is said to have issued a warning that automated systems could push the nose of the plane down, causing it to abruptly dive.
“Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane,” Paul R. Bergman, a spokesperson for Boeing, told Gizmodo via email. “We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team.”
“A Boeing technical team will be travelling to the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board,” said Bergman.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not ordered anyone to stop using the Boeing 737 Max-8, but customers are understandably concerned. Some people are even taking to social media to tell Southwest and American that they’ll be cancelling their flights because they want to avoid that particular aircraft.
How can you tell what kind of plane you’ll be on? The best resource online is called SeatGuru. Just type in your airline’s name, the date you’re flying, and the flight number.
The 737 Max-8 is advertised as having the “widest economy seat” of all the 737s. But that extra room might not be worth it when two Max-8 aircraft have fallen out of the sky.