Details are still emerging about what caused the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that killed 149 passengers and eight crew members, but one thing is known: The plane was a Boeing 737 Max 8. That’s the same model as the Lion Air jet that crashed last year due to mechanical problems, killing 189 people. According to the New York Times, officials are now investigating whether the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 could have been sent into a nose dive due to changes to the flight’s automatic controls.
The Boeing 737 Max was supposed to be a game-changing addition to commercial travel, even dubbed the “short-haul plane of the future,” and airlines were snapping them up. By October 2018, Boeing had 4,783 orders for the aircraft across the world, and while only a fraction of those orders have been delivered, per Reuters, there are many in regular use by airlines around the globe.
In the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes, China has grounded nearly 100 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft operated by its airlines, which Reuters points out is “more than a quarter of the global fleet of the jets.” Ethiopia and Indonesia have also grounded their Max 8 planes.
But in the United States, so far there is no current plan to follow suit. We reached out to several of the airlines using the Boeing 737 Max 8, and they uniformly believe that they are safe, their pilots are well-trained on the aircraft, and passengers have no cause for alarm.
American Airlines, which currently has 24 737 MAX 8 planes in its fleet, will continue to fly them:
“American Airlines extends our condolences to the families and friends of those on board Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. At this time there are no facts on the cause of the accident other than news reports. Our Flight, Flight Service, Tech Ops and Safety teams, along with the Allied Pilots Association (APA) and Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), will closely monitor the investigation in Ethiopia, which is our standard protocol for any aircraft accident. American continues to collaborate with the FAA and other regulatory authorities, as the safety of our team members and customers is our number one priority. We have full confidence in the aircraft and our crew members, who are the best and most experienced in the industry.”
United Airlines currently has 14 Boeing 737 Max 9 planes, but no Max 8 or Max 10 aircraft in its fleet:
“We have made clear that the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft is safe and that our pilots are properly trained to fly the MAX aircraft safely.”
Southwest Airlines operates 34 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes and will continue flying them:
“Our heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the passengers and Employees on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. As Southwest operates a fleet of 34 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, we have been in contact with Boeing and will continue to stay close to the investigation as it progresses. We remain confident in the safety and airworthiness of our entire fleet of more than 750 Boeing 737 aircraft, and we don’t have any changes planned to 737 MAX operations.”
Norwegian Air Shuttle has 18 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes in its fleet today and a total order of 100 aircraft:
“Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by this tragic accident. All of our Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are operating as normal and we are in close dialogue with Boeing and follow their and the aviation authorities’ instructions and recommendations. Our passengers’ safety is and will always be our top priority.”
Alaska Airlines says it does not use any Boeing 737 Max planes:
“Our hearts are with all those impacted by the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy. At this time we do not have any Max aircraft in our fleet.”
We also reached out to Boeing for further comment and will update if we hear back. You can see its full 737 order list here.