The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an emergency airworthiness directive on the troubled aircraft to ensure the safety of passengers across the country – a move that has been replicated by other international civil aviation bodies.
737 MAX-9 Grounded for Cabin Door Inspections as Investigation Continues
The incident happened aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on Friday, January 5, 2023. In a series of updates, the airline acknowledged the panel blowout incident, forcing the aircraft to return to Portland International Airport (PDX). Photos shared to social media from inside the 737 MAX-9 show a portion of the plane completely removed from the aircraft, with the oxygen masks dropped down from the ceiling. All 171 passengers and six crew members returned safely with no fatalities.
— Kyle Rinker (@Kyrinker) January 6, 2024
The airline states the aircraft in question – tail number N704AL – was delivered to the airline on October 31, 2023. After an initial investigation, Alaska says the incident involved the plug door: “a specific panel of the fuselage near the rear of the aircraft.”
Immediately after the incident, Alaska voluntarily grounded their fleet of 737 MAX-9 aircraft for the foreseeable future, followed by the FAA ordering all 737 MAX-9 to be grounded indefinitely. According to Morningstar, the grounding will affect 171 airframes worldwide, with most of them in the United States. United Airlines operates the most 737 MAX-9 aircraft with 79, while Alaska operates 65.
The emergency airworthiness directive issued by the FAA requires operators to “complete enhanced inspections” on the left and right cabin door exit plugs, door components, and fasteners. For Alaska, the airline says the FAA must approve their inspection process while they create “detailed inspection instructions and processes” for maintenance crew.
In the meantime, airline executives are weighing in on what this means for Boeing. In comments to Bloomberg, Emirates president Tim Clark criticized the Chicago-based aerospace giant for their continued issues with the 737 MAX program.
“They’ve had quality control problems for a long time now, and this is just another manifestation of that,” Clark told Bloomberg in an exclusive interview. “I think they’re getting their act together now, but this doesn’t help.”
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Ed. note: The aircraft depicted above is the aircraft involved in the incident.
Feature image courtesy: Nick Dean/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED
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