A day after the second deadly crash since October of a popular new plane model, countries and airlines began grounding flights of the Boeing 737 Max 8. By the afternoon of the third day, U.S. carriers were the only major operators still flying the planes, and President Trump announced that those flights would be grounded as well.

All 157 people aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were killed near Bishoftu, Ethiopia, on March 10 after a six-minute flight in which the jet’s altitude and airspeed climbed and dipped erratically.


More than 8,800 flights of the 737 Max 8s (and similar Max 9s) occur around the world in a typical week. These latest versions of the popular 737 have more fuel-efficient engines than their predecessors, and Boeing hopes the new line will compete successfully with European rival Airbus.

Roughly 60 airlines operate at least one of these planes, which debuted in 2017, and thousands more have been ordered. Worldwide, 427 of the planes have been allocated so far, 76 to U.S. airlines Southwest (34), American (26) and United (16), according to a compilation by Flightradar24. Not all allocated planes are flying routes yet.

Boeing Max 8 flights in North America

Southwest

American

Other airlines

Calgary

Seattle

Montreal

Toronto

Boston

Chicago

San

New

York

York

Francisco

Denver

D.C.

St. Louis

Las Vegas

Nashville

Los

Phoenix

Angeles

Atlanta

Dallas

Orlando

Houston

Miami

Miami

Monterrey

Note:

Flight data between

Cancun

Feb. 25 to March 2

500 MILES

Mexico City

Boeing Max 8 flights in North America

Southwest

American

Other airlines

Calgary

Calgary

Seattle

Seattle

Montreal

Toronto

Boston

Chicago

New

York

Francisco

Denver

D.C.

St. Louis

Las Vegas

Nashville

Los

Phoenix

Angeles

Atlanta

Dallas

Orlando

Houston

Miami

Monterrey

Note:

Flight data between

Feb. 25 to March 2

500 MILES

Mexico City

Source: FlightRadar24

Boeing Max 8 flights in North America

Southwest

American

Other airlines

Calgary

Seattle

Montreal

Toronto

Boston

Chicago

San

New

York

York

Francisco

Denver

D.C.

St. Louis

Las Vegas

Nashville

Los

Phoenix

Angeles

Atlanta

Dallas

Orlando

Houston

Miami

Monterrey

Note:

Flight data between

Feb. 25 to March 2

Cancun

500 MILES

Source: FlightRadar24

Mexico City

Flights by Boeing 737 Max 8 between Feb. 25 and March 3

Flights in countries or by airlines that have

grounded or barred the aircraft

Flights continuing as scheduled

London—

—Beijing

—Miami

—Addis Ababa

Flights by Boeing 737 Max 8 between Feb. 25 and March 3

Flights in countries or by airlines that have

grounded or barred the aircraft

Flights continuing as scheduled

London—

Seattle—

—New York

—Beijing

—Miami

Mexico City—

—Addis Ababa

—Singapore

Flights by Boeing 737 Max 8 between Feb. 25 and March 3

Flights in countries or by airlines that have grounded or barred the aircraft

Flights continuing as scheduled

London—

Seattle—

—New York

—Beijing

Los Angeles—

—Shanghai

Chengdu—

—Miami

Dubai—

Mexico City—

—Addis Ababa

—Singapore

Flights by Boeing 737 Max 8 between Feb. 25 and March 3

Flights in countries or by airlines that have grounded or barred the aircraft

Flights continuing as scheduled

London—

Seattle—

—New York

—Beijing

Los Angeles—

—Shanghai

Chengdu—

—Miami

Dubai—

Mexico City—

—Addis Ababa

—Singapore

Flights by Boeing 737 Max 8 between Feb. 25 and March 3

Flights in countries or by airlines that have grounded or barred the aircraft

Flights continuing as scheduled

London—

Seattle—

—New York

—Beijing

Los Angeles—

—Shanghai

Chengdu—

—Miami

Dubai—

Mexico City—

—Addis Ababa

—Singapore

Airlines, worldwide, with the largest 737 Max 8 or 9 fleets.

Southwest Airlines

34

American Airlines

26

China Southern Airlines

26

Air Canada

25

TUI

21

United Airlines

16

Air China

15

flydubai

15

SpiceJet

14

Turkish Airlines

14

Several countries stopped all flights of the planes on Monday, most notably China and Indonesia, where the other Max 8 crash occurred in October. Ethiopian Airlines and several carriers also grounded their own Max 8 jets.

By the time the United Kingdom and Germany banned the jets from its airspace on Tuesday, the list of countries and airlines that wouldn’t fly the planes had grown to include Australia, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea, and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency took the step later in the day. Canada grounded the jets Wednesday morning, followed by the United States in the afternoon.

Transponder data shows that the operation of Flight 302 was abnormal almost from the start on Sunday, according to Ian Petchenik of Flightradar24.

For the first five minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Flight 302’s climb should have been a more or less continuous upward angle, Petchenik said, like the paths of two previous flights on the same route in previous days.

But Flight 302 wobbled up and down until the surveillance sensors lost track of it three minutes into the flight. An Ethiopian Airlines executive said the pilot radioed that he was having problems and wanted to return to the airport. He then lost contact with air traffic control.

Flight 302’s altitude was abnormally low

beginning shortly after takeoff from the

airport at Addis Ababa, which is more

than 7,000 feet above sea level.

15,000

feet above mean sea level

Expected altitude based on

previous 737 Max flights

Last point

of recorded

flight data

10,000

Flight 302

5,000

0

1

2

3

Minutes after takeoff

Source: Flightradar24

Flight 302’s altitude was abnormally low beginning

shortly after takeoff from the airport at Addis Ababa,

which is more than 7,000 feet above sea level.

15,000

feet above mean sea level

Expected altitude based on

previous 737 Max flights

10,000

Last point

of recorded

flight data

Flight 302

5,000

0

1

2

3

Minutes after takeoff

Source: Flightradar24

Flight 302’s altitude was abnormally low beginning shortly after takeoff

from the airport at Addis Ababa, which is more than 7,000 feet above

sea level.

15,000

feet above mean sea level

Expected altitude based

on previous flights

10,000

Last point

of recorded

flight data

Flight 302

5,000

0

1

2

3

Minutes after takeoff

Source: Flightradar24

Flight 302’s altitude was abnormally low beginning shortly after takeoff from the airport

at Addis Ababa, which is more than 7,000 feet above sea level.

15,000

feet above mean sea level

Expected altitude based on

previous 737 Max flights

10,000

Last point

of recorded

flight data

Flight 302

5,000

0

1

2

3

Minutes after takeoff

Flight 302’s altitude was abnormally low beginning shortly after takeoff from the airport at Addis Ababa, which is more than 7,000 feet above sea level.

15,000

feet above mean sea level

Expected altitude based on

previous 737 Max flights

10,000

Last point

of recorded

flight data

Flight 302

5,000

0

1

2

3

Minutes after takeoff

The flight’s vertical airspeed trajectory should have been a smooth upward trend as well, getting faster until it leveled off. But this flight slowed drastically and sped up sharply during its short time in the air.

While it is too early to know what caused the crash, the circumstances are similar to an October crash in Indonesia in which a Lion Air flight from Jakarta nose-dived into the Java Sea 13 minutes after takeoff. Data in that crash showed dramatic fluctuations in altitude during which pilots fought to keep the plane in the air.

As with the Ethiopian Air flight, the Lion Air pilots had tried to return to the airport.


Pieces of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 are piled at the crash site near Bishoftu, Ethiopia, on Monday. (Mulugeta Ayene/AP)

After the Indonesia crash, a preliminary investigation blamed a malfunctioning sensor. Boeing issued a warning to airlines that operate Max 8 and 9 planes about erroneous readings from flight-control software on the planes.

The warning said an “angle of attack” sensor that had been replaced the day before had malfunctioned; a bad reading by that sensor can cause a plane to dive suddenly. Monday night Boeing said it would release a software update “no later than April.