Controversial Boeing MAX 8 aircraft visited Malta eight times
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Controversial Boeing MAX 8 aircraft visited Malta eight times

Such aircraft have now been grounded after two crashes within a few months

A Smartwings B737-800 MAX at Malta International Airport last October 24. Photo: Keith Pisani, Horizon.mt

A Smartwings B737-800 MAX at Malta International Airport last October 24. Photo: Keith Pisani, Horizon.mt

Boeing 737-800 Max airliners, similar to the one that crashed in Ethiopia on Sunday, has so far visited Malta eight times, according to plane spotters.

Sunday's crash was the second in a few months, leading aviation authorities all over the world to ban flights of the aircraft, which first flew in 2016. Malta as part of the EU banned flights of the aircraft in its airspace on Monday.

The last time the MAX 8 was seen at Malta International Airport was on March 7, just four days before the tragedy that left all 157 people on the Ethiopia Airlines flight dead. 

The aircraft belonged to Turkish Airlines. This was the third time the airline had deployed the MAX 8 to Malta, the two other occasions being on October 18, 2018 and last February 28.

The first MAX 8 to visit Malta arrived on May 23, 2018, operating a Smartwings service. The airline operated three other flights to Malta using the MAX 8: on October 23, 2018, the day after and on October 28, 2018.

A Tui Fly Max 8 was here on March 5.

The plane spotters reported online that a Smartwings MAX 8 en route from Cape Verde to Prague was in “holding pattern”, that is circling in the air, off Malta on Tuesday evening until a decision was made to re-route to Tunisia after the EU aviation safety agency closed the European airspace to the MAX 8 earlier in the day.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes delivered about 350 MAX 8 models, which cost about €100 million each, since 2017 and reportedly has orders for 5,000 more, though the fact that airlines in many countries have suspended the use of the plane in the wake of the latest crash is likely to affect sales.

The new MAX line was unveiled on August 30, 2011, but the first flight took place on January 29, 2016. The plane can have up to 210 seats in a two-class configuration. 

Having a range of 6,570 kilometres, the airliner is just under 40 metres long and has a wingspan of almost 36 metres.

The airliner is the latest in the very successful B737 family, first introduced in 1965. Less than two decades later, the B737  was the most ordered plane in commercial history.

Boeing set a new Guinness World Record for the “highest production of large commercial jet” in March 2018 when the 10,000th B737 airplane was assembled in Renton, Washington, where the plans are to produce 57 B737s every month this year.

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