5 things to know about the Boeing 737 Max

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg on Monday is answering questions from shareholders for the first time since the company's popular 737 Max aircraft were involved in two deadly crashes and subsequently grounded around the world. 

The company lost $1 billion in revenue last quarter as it scrambles to address safety concerns.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE in March issued an order grounding the Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 after a deadly crash in Ethiopia that killed 157 people. The order is ongoing.

It was the second deadly accident in a year involving the model. A Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed over Indonesia in October, killing 189 passengers.

Both crashes are under investigation by authorities, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). 

Here are five things to know about the Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9.

What’s the difference between the Max 8 and the Max 9?

Both crashes involved the Max 8 plane, but the Max 9 also has been grounded.


The most visible difference between the two planes is size: the Max 8 is about 130 feet long and can seat up to 200, while the Max 9 is almost 10 feet longer and can seat 220. 

Max 9 aircraft are also less common, as only 41 of the 387 Max aircraft that have been delivered to airlines are the Max 9 model.

Boeing plans to add two more 737 Max series planes, the Max 7 and Max 10, to commercial service in 2019 and 2020.

How commonly used are the aircraft?

According to the FAA, there were 387 Max 8 and 9 aircraft flying worldwide, 74 of which are registered in the U.S. 

That’s a relatively small percentage of the U.S. commercial fleet.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines were the only major airlines that operate the Max 8 model in the U.S. American has 24 of the planes, while Southwest has 34.

Other major airlines in the U.S., including Delta, JetBlue and Frontier, do not have contracts for the planes, according to Boeing's website

Alaska and United Airlines, both of which are 737 Max customers, told The Hill they operate only Max 9 planes.

Boeing is increasingly relying on the aircraft

The 737 Max was the fastest-selling plane in Boeing history, according to the company.

Since delivering the first 737 Max plane in 2017, the company had received over 5,000 orders for the planes from over 100 unique customers.

However, the company had delivered only 376 of those as of February 2019, meaning it has a backlog of more than 4,600 planes.

Southwest had more pending orders of the 737 Max than any other airline, at 249.

Brian Sumers, an aviation expert at Skift, an industry publication, explained to The Hill that airlines are shifting toward the 737 Max series because it has a longer range and better fuel economy than other models.

However, the Boeing 737-700 and 737-800 planes are unlikely to be retired soon given that they’re relatively new models, he added.

What are the planes used for?

Despite being designed for longer routes, the 737 Max jets were used for all ranges of flights in the U.S.

American took advantage of the plane’s superior range to use the 737 Max for its Los Angeles-to-Hawaii route. However, the airline also used the model for shorter flights from its hub in Miami.

On the other hand, Southwest is planning to use an earlier Boeing model for its new Hawaii trips. The airline told The Hill that the Max 8 is interchangeable with any of the other planes in its fleet, so its usage varied. 

Given the variety of routes the 737 Max is used on, until the planes were grounded in the U.S., the only way to know if a flight was on a 737 Max was to check with on the airline’s website before boarding.

Boeing’s stock has tumbled

The Chicago-based aerospace manufacturer saw its stock tumble following the second crash.

Sumers told The Hill that any time countries are skittish about a model, it could hurt the manufacturer’s bottom line. 

However, Sumers explained that Boeing is likely to be fine in the long run given its extensive military contracts and the popularity of its other models.

Boeing’s main competition for airline contracts is Airbus. While the blowback to the Max 737 may affect Boeing’s edge in the short term, Sumers says the airline will not lose a significant market share long term.

“Boeing and Airbus compete vigorously for all orders. Neither wants to lose share to the other. Because of the recent troubles with the Max, some airlines may prefer Airbus narrow-body aircraft in the short term. There could be some airlines that go with Airbus A320s and Airbus A321s over a Boeing 737 Max,” he said.

“But Boeing will be fine. The Boeing 787 and Boeing 777 are excellent machines, and airlines want them.”

- This post was updated on April 29, 2019.