(Jan 31): Last March, six minutes after taking off an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft nosedived killing 157 people. That crash followed the plunging of a similar aircraft belonging to Indonesia’s Lion Air four and half months later into Java Sea just 12 minutes after takeoff killing 189 people. 

Fifteen months on, the Chicago-based aeronautics and defence giant faces an existential crisis. The entire 737 Max 8 fleet remains grounded including 390 planes that were delivered to airlines before the crash and over 400 planes that have rolled off Boeing production lines since. Late last month, Boeing which has over 5,000 orders for the Max from over 100 airlines worldwide, including Singapore’s SilkAir, Thailand’s NokAir and Vietnam’s VietJet, suspended production of the controversial aircraft. Over 2,800 workers have been laid off by Boeing’s suppliers and more redundancies are expected across its vast supply chain. Unless the Max is airborne soon, the production shut off could shave up to 0.5% of US GDP in the current quarter alone. 

Boeing is in a duopoly with Europe’s Airbus SE. The two firms sell about US$ 50 billion worth of commercial aircraft every year and compete fiercely, though with its higher margins Boeing has traditionally been more profitable than Airbus which has long relied on European state subsidies.

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