The trouble appeared to begin almost immediately after takeoff. The pilots told air traffic controllers that they were having technical problems. And the plane seemed to repeatedly climb and dive before a final plunge.
Two eerily similar scenes have played out in recent months for Boeing’s brand-new 737 Max jets: on Sunday, when an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed just after taking off from Addis Ababa, killing 157 people, and in October, when a Lion Air disaster killed 189 people in Indonesia.
The Ethiopian crash occurred just outside the country’s capital, leaving a smoking crater where investigators combed over the grim scene. Much about the cause of the crash remains unknown and will take weeks to investigate, and Boeing and the National Transportation Safety Board are sending teams to the crash site.
[The plane lost contact with air traffic controllers six minutes after takeoff before plunging to earth.]
But the rarity of two planes of the same model going down in such a short time span has urgently caught the attention of pilots, passengers, engineers and industry analysts.
For Boeing, the questions go to the heart of its business, as the 737 class is a workhorse for airlines worldwide, and the single-aisle 737 Max has been the company’s best-selling plane ever. By the end of January, Boeing had delivered over 350 737 Max jets since putting them in service in 2017. They have a list price of around $120 million, the company said, and around 5,000 more are on order.