(CNN Business) — A Boeing 737 plane crashed in China on Monday with 132 people on board. Although Boeing’s 737 model has faced extraordinarily high-profile safety issues for the past three years, the plane that crashed was a different version of the 737 Max that shook the company to the core.
The cause of Monday’s plane crash has yet to be determined. The plane that crashed had been in service since 2015. The flight, operated by China Eastern Airlines, was flying from the southwestern city of Kunming to Guangzhou when it crashed.
This is what we know about the plane.
The Boeing 737-800
The China Eastern Airlines plane that crashed was a Boeing 737-800. This is the most common version of Boeing aircraft in service and essentially represents the workhorse in many airline fleets.
There are currently 4,502 Boeing 737-800 aircraft in service around the world, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium. Which makes it by far the most widely used Boeing aircraft right now. This aircraft model is also the most widely used in the United States, where there are 795 in service, as well as in China, which has 1,177 in service. And it’s the second most common aircraft in use worldwide, behind only the A320 made by Boeing’s rival Airbus.
The Boeing 737-800 is an older aircraft model that has been replaced by the 737 Max.
Previous security issues
Boeing began deliveries of the 737-800 in 1998, but has not shipped a civilian version of the plane since two were provided to China Eastern in January 2020.
The 737-800 is part of a class of Boeing aircraft known as the 737-NG. The NG planes have had safety issues that US regulators have cited, though none rose to the level of requiring the planes to remain on the ground.
In 2018, a passenger died on a Boeing 737-700, the other plane in the Next Generation family. In that accident, an engine fan blade on a Southwest Airlines flight broke off, causing part of the engine cover to strike the side of the plane. He broke one of the windows and the cabin rapidly depressurized. The crew was able to land the plane safely. But a woman who was walking by that window died.
In 2019, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that Boeing redesign part of the plane’s engine covers to prevent them from flying into the aircraft in the event of a similar failure. Boeing agreed to make the change.
On some older aircraft a part used to hold the wings in place was found to have cracks. Those cracks temporarily grounded a handful of 737 NGs.
Other fatal accidents involving the 737-800 occurred when planes landed in bad weather and overshot or skidded the runways. Two were hit in the sky by missiles: one in Ukraine in 2014, the other in Iran in 2020.
The 737 Max 8
Two Boeing 737 Maxes have been in fatal accidents, in 2018 (Lion Air) and 2019 (Ethiopian Airlines), which were shown to be caused by a design flaw. The tragedies led to a 20-month global suspension of the aircraft.
Those accidents resulted in the 20-month immobilization of the 737 Max. Which cost Boeing tens of billions of dollars.
The 737-800 does not have the feature that caused the 737 Max crashes.
Richard Quest, Yong Xiong, and Helen Regan, all of CNN, contributed to this report.