Everything You Need to Know About the Boeing 737 MAX 8

The plane that crashed in Ethiopia was part of a new series of next-generation planes that were meant to be more technologically advanced and fuel-efficient.
Loukia Papadopoulos

On Sunday, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed in Ethiopia killing all 150 people on board. The event marked the second time that that model had a devastating crash. Last October, another MAX 8 crashed in Indonesia, killing all 157 people on board.


Now, investigations are ongoing on what exactly may have gone wrong. We take a look at all we know about the Boeing 737 MAX 8.

A next-generation plane

The 737 MAX is a narrow-body aircraft series by Boeing. When released, the firm claimed it was meant to bring the “latest technology to the most popular jet aircraft of all time, the 737.” The line is indeed the fourth generation of the Boeing 737, succeeding the Boeing 737 Next Generation (737NG). There are four planes in the series, the 7, 8, 9 and 10. The MAX 8 was meant to replace the 737-800 and is the longest running model in the series.  

FAA certification

The new line was launched on August 30, 2011, but did not perform its first flight till January 29, 2016. The new series finally gained FAA certification on March 8, 2017.

The engines

The new line boasted CFM International LEAP-1B engines that are “bigger, better” models. In 2011, the Leap-1B was said to be 0–12% more efficient than the previous CFM56-7B of the 737NG. The company described the engine as being equipped with “carbon fiber fan blades with a titanium leading edge.”

Boeing had high hopes for this engine. “I think the most exciting thing is the LEAP engine is pretty much going to define the single-aisle engine market for the next 20 to 40 years so to be part of that is very exciting,” said Steve Crane, chief test pilot, CFM.

The winglet

The MAX series boasted the most efficient winglet of any airplane. 

Boeing is introducing the very latest in advanced winglet technology, the 737 MAX AT Winglet. In addition to the inward, upward and slightly forward lift components of the upper aerofoil, the new lower aerofoil generates a vertical lift component that is vectored away from the fuselage, and also slightly forward. Working together, these provide the perfectly balanced winglet that maximizes the overall efficiency of the wing,” reads the page’s description.

The MAX 8 specifics

The MAX8 offers a seating capacity of 178 to 210 max. It has a length of 129 ft 6 in (39.47m), a wingspan of 117 ft 10 in (35,9m) and a maximum payload of 46,040 lb (20,882 kg). It was said to have a longer fuselage than the MAX 7. 

The MAX 8 also boasted a lower empty weight than the A320neo. In cruise at 140,500 lb (63,700 kg), the MAX 8 burns 4,460 lb (2,020 kg) per hour at Mach 0.78 (450 kn; 833 km/h) and FL350.

The price range

The MAX 8 came with a united cost of US $121.6 million.

What went wrong

It is too early to know exactly what went wrong but the Ethiopia accident does bear several similarities to the Indonesia one. In both cases, the accidents happened minutes after takeoff and after the crew requested permission to return to the airport.

In the Indonesia crash, Indonesian and American aviation authorities determined that the culprit may have been updated Boeing software meant to prevent a stall. Pilots unions claimed that the change in the flight control system had not been explained to pilots.

Boeing’s take

Boeing released a statement saying the firm was deeply saddened by the crash and added it would be joining investigation efforts.

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,” read the statement.

How many planes in circulation

Boeing has delivered 350 of the 737 MAX 8 since 2017 and reportedly has orders for 5000 more. However, as airlines in multiple countries suspend the use of the plane, it is unlikely those orders will go through.

Currently the airlines that have the plane on their roster are: Norwegian Air, Air China, SpiceJet, Southwest Airlines, Icelandair, Flydubai, Air Italy, TUI, LOT Polish Airlines, AeroMexico, Oman Air, SmartWings, Aerolineas Argentinas, Lion Air, Corendon Airlines, China Southern, Ethiopean Airlines, Air Canada, Garuda Indonesia, United Airlines, American Airlines, Xiamen Airlines, WestJet, Turkish Airlines, SCAT Airlines, Chian Eastern, Shanghai Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Jet Airways, Okay Airways, GOL, SilkAir, S7 Siberia Airlines, Copa Airlines, Lucky Air, Sunwing Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Mauritania Airlines International, Shandong Airlines, Fiji Air, Enter Air, Cayman Airways, and Comair.

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