The 737 MAX is the fastest-selling plane in Boeing history, racking up more than 5,000 orders. When the first jet was delivered, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Kevin McAllister declared that it “will change the face of the single-aisle market.”

But two fatal crashes of the MAX, with 346 fatalities, have changed the picture and left Boeing facing a crisis. Here is a timeline of the life of Boeing’s 737 MAX jets.

 


 

July 2011

After learning that American Airlines is ready to order 200 new Airbus A320 neo jets, Boeing makes a key decision: It abandons plans for a new small aircraft in favor of a re-engined 737, the MAX.

 

Aug. 30, 2011

Boeing launches the MAX.

Jim Albaugh, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO at the time, introduces the new 737 MAX on Aug. 30, 2011, in Renton. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)
Jim Albaugh, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO at the time, introduces the new 737 MAX on Aug. 30, 2011, in Renton. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

 

Nov. 3, 2011

Boeing announces design changes, including larger engines, for the 737 MAX. The new aircraft has no firm orders yet, while Airbus’s neo has 918 as of the end of September.

 

Dec. 14, 2011

Southwest Airlines orders 150 737 MAX aircraft, representing a much-needed win for Boeing and the MAX.

See our complete coverage of the Boeing 737 MAX »

Oct. 3, 2014

Boeing announces plans for an unprecedented production ramp-up of 737s, including the new MAX, at Renton plant.

Advertising

 

2015

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers push the agency’s safety engineers to delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the resulting analysis.

 

Dec. 8, 2015

Boeing rolls out first 737 MAX in Renton.

Boeing rolls out the first 737 MAX 8 outside the final assembly factory Dec. 8, 2015, in Renton. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)
Boeing rolls out the first 737 MAX 8 outside the final assembly factory Dec. 8, 2015, in Renton. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

 

Jan. 29, 2016

First flight of a 737 MAX

 

May 12, 2016

Boeing promises to accelerate delivery of the first 737 MAX by several months, to the first half of 2017. Three months earlier, Airbus delivers the first of its bestselling neo.

 

March 9, 2017

Boeing announces that FAA has certified the 737 MAX 8.

 

April 7, 2017

The 737 program marks its 50th year.

In November 1966, the first Boeing 737 short-range twinjet received finishing touches at the company’s painting facility. (Seattle Times archives)
In November 1966, the first Boeing 737 short-range twinjet received finishing touches at the company’s painting facility. (Seattle Times archives)

 

May 16, 2017

Boeing delivers the first 737 MAX 8 to Malaysia-based Malindo Air, a subsidiary of Lion Air.

 

Oct. 29, 2018

A 737 MAX 8 operated by Lion Air crashes after departing Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board.

 

Nov. 6, 2018

Boeing details what pilots should do if a sensor failure erroneously triggers an automated flight-control system called MCAS that may cause the plane to pitch downward, a scenario suspected in the Lion Air crash. Boeing’s bulletin provides the first description of MCAS, which pilots and airlines had previously been unaware of.

 

Jan. 31, 2019

Boeing reports 5,011 orders for the MAX from 79 customers.

 

March 10, 2019

A 737 MAX 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashes, killing all 157 people on board.

Rescuers work at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crash near Bishoftu, Ethiopia, on March 11, 2019. All 157 people on board were killed. (Mulugeta Ayene / AP)
Rescuers work at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crash near Bishoftu, Ethiopia, on March 11, 2019. All 157 people on board were killed. (Mulugeta Ayene / AP)

 

March 11, 2019

China and Indonesia ground the MAX, although the cause of the Ethiopian Airlines crash is still unknown. Boeing says by April it will introduce FAA-approved changes to the MAX flight-control system, in reaction to Lion Air crash.

Advertising

 

March 12, 2019

Regulators in key markets including Canada, the European Union and India ground the 737 MAX.

 

March 13, 2019

The FAA grounds the 737 MAX after investigators find indications that MCAS may have been involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

Boeing 737s, many of them MAX 8 and 9 variants, are parked in various stages of completion next to the factory on March 15, 2019.  (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)
Boeing 737s, many of them MAX 8 and 9 variants, are parked in various stages of completion next to the factory on March 15, 2019. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

 

March 17, 2019

Seattle Times details major shortcomings in the FAA’s certification of the 737 MAX flight control system

 

April 1, 2019

A federal grand jury issues a subpoena in a criminal probe into Boeing’s 737 MAX certification.

 

April 4, 2019

Preliminary crash report confirms Ethiopian 737 MAX pilots lost control despite following Boeing’s instructions

 

April 5, 2019

Boeing announces plans to cut MAX production by 20 percent, to 42 aircraft per month.

About a dozen painted and undelivered Boeing 737 MAX planes sit along an unused runway at Everett’s Paine Field in mid-April 2019. At far right is a Boeing tanker built for the Air Force. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)
About a dozen painted and undelivered Boeing 737 MAX planes sit along an unused runway at Everett’s Paine Field in mid-April 2019. At far right is a Boeing tanker built for the Air Force. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)