The Boeing Co. jet that crashed in Iran on Wednesday was a predecessor to the 737 Max aircraft that’s been grounded worldwide since March following two deadly crashes.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was operated by a Boeing 737-800, which crashed shortly after takeoff Wednesday morning. All passengers and crew on board died in a crash near Tehran hours after Iranian missiles struck bases hosting U.S. forces in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of a senior Iranian general.
The cause of the crash is under investigation, and it is not thought that it is connected to the regional conflict.
According to Ukrainian authorities, 176 people were on board the Ukrainian International Airlines flight.
Both black boxes have been found and are being investigated by Iranian aviation experts, Isna news agency reported. The public prosecutor’s office in Tehran confirmed that the remains of all passengers have been brought to forensics experts.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko tweeted that the passengers included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 10 Swedish nationals, two Ukrainians, four Afghans, three British citizens and three Germans. The nine crew were also from Ukraine.
That family of aircraft is called the 737 NG, for Next Generation, and was a significant source of Boeing’s profits before the 737 Max made its commercial debut in 2017.
First flown in 1967, Boeing Co.’s 737 has become the world’s best-selling commercial aircraft. The 737 Max is the fourth generation in the 737 range and was first flown by an affiliate of Lion Air. The Indonesian discount carrier suffered the first 737 Max disaster in October 2018, when Flight 610 plunged into the Java Sea. A 737 Max operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed five months later, triggering a global wave of groundings.
While the 737 Max has nearly 4,700 orders from over 100 airlines, only a handful were delivered before it was grounded, meaning several carriers have yet to retire the 737 NG series and the planes are in use around the world. Website planefinder.net said the crashed Ukraine International Airlines 737-800 was only delivered to the airline in July 2016.
A popular workhorse for airline fleets, the 737 NG family has one of the best safety records of any jetliner. Out of more than 7,000 of the planes that have been put in service over more than 20 years, only seven have been involved in fatal crashes, Boeing data show. The 737-800 is capable of seating as many as 189 people, according to Boeing’s website, compared with as many as 230 seats for the biggest 737 Max model.
Boeing designed the 737 Max to compete with Airbus SE’s newest A320neo model of narrow-body jets, before the disasters idled the entire new fleet. CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric Co. and France’s Safran SA, is the sole provider of engines for both the 737 series of planes.
When it unveiled plans for the 737 Max in 2011, Boeing estimated that the upgraded single-aisle jet would help it capture half of a $2 trillion market in two decades. It has bigger engines, incorporates more automation, has a higher range and uses less fuel. Boeing had pitched that pilots of an older 737 model would only need a short computer course to fly the Max, but on Tuesday it recommended that airlines put Max pilots through simulator training.
The planemaker has halted production of the 737 Max as it tries to gain approval to resume flying the jet from the Federal Aviation Administration, amid pushback from U.S. lawmakers.