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Boeing 737 Max Timeline: The Troubled Journey of a Controversial Aircraft

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Travelers typically unbothered at the prospect of flying now have reason to dread a trip by plane: since the beginning of the year, a string of alarming incidents that involve Boeing‘s 737 Max models have shaken the public’s faith in the the company’s aircraft.

But the woes of the 737 Max date back to its earliest days in service, and this isn’t the first time Boeing has had to answer for disasters caused by flaws in the plane’s design — some of them deadly.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration certifies Boeing’s 737 Max 8 for commercial service. It’s the first of the company’s “Max” class of airplanes, which make up the fourth generation of 737s, with a single-aisle layout and improved fuel efficiency.

The FAA certifies the 737 Max 9, similar to the Max 8 but with three additional seat rows. It has a capacity of 220 passengers. Lion Air Group, comprising several Southeast Asia airlines, is the first to take delivery.

Only 13 minutes after taking off from Jakarta, bound for another island in Indonesia, Lion Air flight JT 610 crashes into the Java Sea on Oct. 29, 2018, killing all 189 aboard.

An investigation by Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee finds that the flight crew had tried to pull the aircraft out of a dive caused by a glitching sensor that caused its Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) to continually tilt it downward.

Just months after the Lion Air crash and amid continued scrutiny of the 737 Max, another Max 8 crashes into a field six minutes after taking from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, en route to Nairobi, Kenya, on March 10, 2019. All 157 people aboard are killed.

Boeing continues to produce the 737 Max even as they are kept out of service, aiming for a software fix to the MCAS that will satisfy regulators.

Amid this turmoil, in October 2019, Boeing’s board removes CEO Dennis Muilenburg as chairman…

Boeing continues to work toward ungrounding the 737 Max, resuming production of the model in May 2020.

In November, the agency reinstates Boeing’s certification…

By this point, the 737 Max is already considered one of the most expensive debacles in corporate history…

In January 2021, it agrees to pay another $2.5 billion…

In October 2021, Boeing test pilot Mark Forkner becomes the first individual indicted in connection with the 737 Max…

Six minutes after taking off from Portland, Oregon, en route to Ontario, California, Alaska Airlines flight 1282 suffers an uncontrolled decompression and is forced to return to the Portland airport for an emergency landing…

The FAA orders the grounding and immediate inspection of 737 Max 9s…

A report from the National Transportation Safety Board finds that four bolts meant to keep the Alaska Airlines door plug in place were missing when it blew out…

Another whistleblower, Josh Dean, who worked as a quality auditor at Boeing parts supplier Spirit AeroSystems and warned of flaws in the 737 Max, dies at age 45 after spending two weeks in a…

At the end of February, Boeing removes Ed Clark, the executive who led the 737 Max program…

Rachel Adams

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