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Flights Lion Air JT610 & Ethiopian Airlines ET302

Lion Air flight JT610 crashed into the Java Sea 13 minutes after taking off from the Jakarta Soekarno Hatta International Airport (CGK) in early morning on October 29, 2018. The aircraft involved in the accident was a brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8, which had been flying with the airline for just a couple of months.

Five months later, on March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines took off for a regularly scheduled flight ET302 between Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Nairobi, Kenya. The flight was to last an hour and a half. Instead, around six minutes after the takeoff, it crashed into a field 60 kilometers from Addis Ababa. The aircraft involved in the accident was also brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8. The aircraft, registered as ET-AVJ, was delivered to the airline four months prior ‒ in November 2018.

The similarities between the two accidents prompted a scrutiny of the Boeing airliner and its systems.

MCAS

The Boeing 737 MAX engines are in a different location than on a regular 737. Because of this, the nose of the MAX has a tendency of going up, making the aircraft prone to stalling in a different manner than usual. To counteract the dangers of staling, Boeing installed the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). Following the two accidents, it became known that 737 MAX pilots had no knowledge about MCAS or its processes.

On March 11, 2019, the Civil Aviation Authority of China ordered airlines to park their Boeing 737 MAX family jets. Over the following two days, multiple aviation authorities banned the airliner from their skies. Despite initial hesitance to do so, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration followed the suit, becoming one of the last authorities to do so. On March 13, 2019, the Boeing 737 MAX became grounded worldwide. 

Boeing hopes for quick fix, ends up with record grounding 

Following the worldwide grounding, Boeing dedicated effort to redesign the 737 MAX and get the aircraft off the ground as soon as possible, initial setting up the deadline in one month’s time. As the public outcry grew, the deadlines were pushed back repeatedly, while the company sunk into an aircraft grounding scandal never seen before. 

Boeing 737 MAX crisis in depth: Part I Part II Part III Part IV Part V

Within the following year, both Boeing and the FAA faced multiple public investigations, ranging from the company’s work culture, aircraft design faults, production lapses to the authority’s subpar aircraft certification standards. 

What's next?

The 737 MAX approval for service comes at a time when aviation industry is grappling with crisis. Boeing has stopped the 737 MAX production since January 2020. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the manufacturer has only registered a handful of new orders of the jetliner - but lost hundreds of them. Here are only some of the numerous questions that Boeing will have to solve in the coming months.