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Boeing will suspend 737 Max production starting in 2020

The move comes after crashes that killed 346 people.

Boeing's 737 Max 8 was grounded after two crashes that killed 346 people.

Boeing will temporarily halt production of its 737 Max airplane following two crashes that killed 346 people, the company said Monday. It'll suspend production starting in January. 

All of Boeing's 737 Max planes were grounded worldwide in March following the deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, and the FAA and global regulatory authorities will "determine the timeline for certification and return to service," Boeing said in a statement. During the grounding of the airliner, Boeing says it's continued to build new planes, and now has around 400 in storage.

"We have previously stated that we would continually evaluate our production plans should the Max grounding continue longer than we expected," the company said in the statement. "As a result of this ongoing evaluation, we have decided to prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft and temporarily suspend production on the 737 program beginning next month."

The news comes just three weeks after its latest 737 model, the Max 10, had a low-key rollout from the factory last month. Boeing says the decision was driven by factors including uncertainty around when the plane would return to service and global training approvals. 

"We will continue to assess our progress towards return to service milestones and make determinations about resuming production and deliveries accordingly," the company said. 

To return to passenger service, both the FAA and aviation safety agencies in other countries must certify the aircraft as safe. In October, Boeing said it had made the necessary modifications to the flight control system being blamed for both crashes and has successfully tested the fixes in the air. But there's still no word on when the regulatory approval might happen. Most airlines that own the aircraft have canceled their 737 Max flights through next March at least.

Boeing says it doesn't expect there'll be any layoffs during this time, and affected employees will still work on 737-related projects or be temporarily assigned to other teams. 

First published Dec. 16 at 2:51 p.m. PT.
Update, 3:49 p.m. PT: Adds details throughout.

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