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id="article-body" class="row" section="article-body"> Two Boeing 737 Max 8s have crashed killing 346 people.

Boeing After two deadly crashes of its 737 Max 8 that killed 346 people, Boeing is facing massive scrutiny over one of its newest and most critical aircraft models. The airliner remains grounded around the world, and the Federal Aviation Administration is under scrutiny for its certification process.

The developments are a huge blow to Boeing, which has thousands of 737 Max orders on its books. Indonesia's aviation safety agency has published a report on the first crash, which blames a faulty sensor, problems with a flight control system and errors by Lion Air staff. The investigation into the second crash in Ethiopia is still underway, but teams are focusing on similar causes.

Boeing says it has completed the necessary changes to repair the plane and has submitted them for review by the FAA. But as of now, the agency has not said when that review will happen or when the plane could carry passengers again. Until the Max is back in the air, here's everything else we know.

What happened in the two crashes?
In the first crash, on Oct. 29, 2018, Lion Air flight 610 dove into the Java Sea 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing 189 people. The flight crew made a distress call shortly before losing control. That aircraft was almost brand-new, having arrived at Lion Air three months earlier. 

The second crash occurred on March 10, when Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 departed Addis Ababa Bole International Airport bound for Nairobi, Kenya. Just after takeoff, the pilot radioed a distress call and was given immediate clearance to return and land. But before the crew could make it back, the aircraft crashed 40 miles from the airport, six minutes after it left the runway. Aboard were 149 passengers and eight crew members. The aircraft involved was only four months old. 

The 737 Max 9, shown here at the 2016 Paris Air Show, is a larger version of the Max 8, but with the same piloting system that's under investigation.

Kent German/CNET What is the Boeing 737 Max?

The 737 Max is a family of commercial aircraft that consists of four models. The Max 8, which is the most popular version,  made its first flight on Jan. 29, 2016, and entered passenger service with Malaysia's (now defunct) Malindo Air on May 22, 2017. Seating between 162 and 210 passengers, depending on the configuration, it's popular on short-haul routes, but also has the range (3,550 nautical miles or about 4,085 miles) to fly transatlantic and between the mainland US and Hawaii. The larger Max 9 first flew in 2017, and the 737-10 is still in development and has yet to fly. A few airlines have ordered the smaller 737 Max 7, but Boeing has yet to complete any deliveries. (It flew for the first time in May 2018.)

More on the 737 family

Boeing 737: Much more than just the Max
The design of the 737 Max series is based on the Boeing 737, an aircraft series that has been in service since 1968. As a whole, the 737 family is the best-selling airliner in history. At any given time, thousands of some version of it are airborne around the world and some airlines, like Southwest and Ryanair, have all-737 fleets. If you've flown even occasionally, you've most likely flown on a 737.

What's different about the 737 Max series compared with earlier 737s?
The 737 Max can fly farther and carry more people than the previous generation of 737s, like the 737-800 and 737-900. It's also has improved aerodynamics and a redesigned cabin interior and flies on bigger, more powerful and more efficient CFM LEAP engines. 

Those engines, though, required Boeing to make critical design changes. Because they're bigger, and because the 737 sits so low to the ground (a deliberate design choice to let it serve small airports with limited ground equipment), Boeing moved the engines slightly forward and raised them higher under the wing. (If you place an engine too close to the ground, it can suck in debris while the plane is taxiing.) That change allowed Boeing to accommodate the engines without completely redesigning the 737 fuselage -- a fuselage that hasn't changed much in 50 years.

But the new position of the engines changed how the aircraft handled in the air, creating the potential for the nose to pitch up during flight. A pitched nose is a problem in flight -- raise it too high and an aircraft can stall. To keep the nose in tour shangrila trim, Boeing designed software called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. When a sensor on the fuselage detects that the nose is too high, MCAS automatically pushes the nose down. (For background on MCAS, read these in-depth stories from The Air Current and The Seattle Times.) 

Compared with previous versions of the 737, the Max's engines sit farther forward and higher up on the underwing pylons.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET What caused the crashes?

On Oct. 25, the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) published its final report on the Lion Air crash. The report identifies nine factors that contributed to the crash, but largely blames MCAS. Before crashing, the Lion Air pilots were unable to determine their true airspeed and altitude and they struggled to take control of the plane as it oscillated for about 10 minutes. Each time they pulled up from a dive, MCAS pushed the nose down again. 

"The MCAS function was not a fail-safe design and did not include redundancy," the report said. The report said MCAS relied on only one sensor, which had a fault, and flight crews hadn't been adequately trained to use it. Improper maintenance procedures, confusion in the cockpit and the lack of a cockpit warning light (more on that in a minute) contributed to the crash as well.

More on the Lion Air accident report

Report on 737 Max 8 crash blames Boeing design, Lion Air staff
Ethiopian investigators haven't completed their report, but so far they're focusing on MCAS. Ethiopia's Transport Minister said on March 18 that two crashes have "clear similarities." Though he didn't elaborate, satellite data released March 14 showed that the final flight track of the Ethiopian Airlines jet was similar to that of the Lion Air plane (the FAA cited that data in its grounding order).

And that's not all. As with the Lion Air crash, the sensor on the Ethiopian plane may have been damaged, causing it to feed erroneous data to tour shangrila the MCAS system. On April 29, during Boeing's annual shareholders meeting in Chicago, CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the incorrect data was a common link in a chain of events that led to both crashes. It's a link Boeing owns, he said, and one that a software update will fix.

Of the four 747 Max versions, only the Max 10 has yet to fly.

Boeing The actions of the Ethiopian flight crew are under investigation as well. According to a preliminary report released on April 4, the flight crew initially followed Boeing's emergency procedures to disable MCAS by cutting electrical power. For unknown reasons, though, they later turned the system back on as many as four times after they were unable to regain control under manual power. During his remarks at the April 29 shareholder meeting, Muilenburg said that in some cases pilots didn't "completely" follow the procedures that Boeing had outlined to prevent a crash in the case of an MCAS malfunction.

While we wait for the final report, remember that crash investigations are tremendously complex -- it takes months to evaluate the evidence and determine a probable cause. Investigators must examine the debris, study the flight recorders and, if possible, check the victims' bodies to determine the cause of death. They also involve multiple parties including the airline, the airplane and engine manufacturers, and aviation regulatory agencies.

The original version of the 737 first flew in 1967.

Boeing What kind of MCAS training did 737 Max pilots receive?
Not much, which was a factor in the Indonesian crash. As the report said, "The absence of guidance on MCAS or more detailed use of trim in the flight manuals and in flight crew training, made it more difficult for flight crews to properly respond."

Though MCAS was new to the Max, existing 737 pilots didn't have to train on a simulator before they could start flying the plane. Instead, they learned about the differences the Max brought through an hour's worth of iPad-based training. MCAS received scant mention. The reason? It was because Boeing, backed by the FAA, wanted to minimize the cost and time of certifying pilots who'd already been trained on other 737 versions.

Pilot complaints about the lack of training emerged quickly after the Lion Air crash. On Nov 12, 2018, The Seattle Times reported that Max pilots from Southwest Airlines were "kept in the dark" about MCAS. The Dallas Morning News found similar complaints from American Airlines pilots four months later.

What about the warning light?
The Air Current reported March 12 that the Lion Air plane lacked a warning light designed to alert pilots to the faulty sensor and that Boeing sold the light as part of an optional package of equipment. When asked about the warning light, a Boeing spokesman gave CNET the following statement on March 22:

"All Boeing airplanes are certified and delivered to the highest levels of safety consistent with industry standards. Airplanes are delivered with a baseline configuration, which includes a standard set of flight deck displays and alerts, crew procedures and training materials that meet industry safety norms and most customer requirements. Customers may choose additional options, such as alerts and indications, to customize their airplanes to support their individual operations or requirements."

But on April 29, The Wall Street Journal reported that even for airlines that had ordered it, the warning light wasn't operating on some Max planes that had been delivered (a fact the Indonesian accident report confirmed.). Then on June 7, Reps. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, and Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington, said they'd obtained information suggesting that even though the plane maker knew the safety alert wasn't working, it decided to wait until 2020 to implement a fix. 

Boeing responded to DeFazio and Larsen in a statement sent to CNET the same day.

"The absence of the AOA Disagree alert did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation," the statement read. "Based on the safety review, the update was scheduled for the MAX 10 rollout in 2020. We fell short in the implementation of the AoA Disagree alert and are taking steps to address these issues so they do not occur again."

The previous model, the 737-900ER, doesn't have the MCAS flight control system.

Boeing/Ed Turner Have any other reports been issued?

On Oct. 11, an international flight safety panel issued a Joint Authorities Technical Review that faulted both the FAA and Boeing on several fronts. For the FAA, it said the agency needs to modernize its aircraft certification process to account for increasingly complex automated systems by ensuring that aircraft incorporate fail-safe design principles that don't rely too heavily on pilot input. 

For Boeing's part, the report cited the company's "inadequate communications" to the FAA about the MCAS, inadequate pilot training and shortage of technical staff. The review was conducted by representatives from NASA, the FAA and civil aviation authorities from Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Singapore, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.
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