BEIJING — The plane that crashed on Monday in southern China was a Boeing 737-800, a mainstay of airline fleets around the world with a strong safety record.
The model is part of Boeing’s so-called Next Generation line of narrow-body jets that have a maximum range of over 3,000 miles, but are commonly used on shorter routes.
The 737-800 is an older model. Some airlines were shifting to the 737-Max, a newer narrow-body plane. The 737-Max was temporarily grounded worldwide after two of them crashed nearly four years ago.
The 737-Max was widely criticized after one of them crashed in Indonesia in late 2018 and a second crashed in Ethiopia. The Max was grounded worldwide after the second crash, in March 2019. Boeing ended up making a series of changes to the aircraft before it was approved again for commercial service in most countries 20 months later.
China waited longer than most countries to allow the 737-Max to resume flying, however. China’s aviation regulators only granted approval in early December, and demanded that Chinese airlines prove that they had made all of Boeing’s changes before they could actually start flying them on commercial routes again.
Chinese airlines have made these changes and are still testing the planes, so the 737-Max is not yet back in service in mainland China, said David Yu, a finance professor specializing in aviation at the Shanghai campus of New York University.
Boeing agreed in January of last year to pay over $2.5 billion in a fine to the Justice Department to resolve a criminal charge that the company conspired to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates Boeing and evaluates its planes.
The criminal charge against the company involved the actions of two employees who did not share information with the F.A.A. about changes made to computer software on the 737-Max. That software was later implicated in both crashes.