Unexpectedly, the recent incident involving a Boeing 737 Max 9 operated by Alaska Airlines, whose door blew apart in midair, has caused major concerns regarding the aircraft’s safety. According to investigators, Alaska Airlines placed limits on long-haul flights over water after the aircraft received pressurization alerts on three prior flights.
Jennifer Homendy of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated that the decision to limit the plane’s operational range was made to ensure a prompt return to an airport in case of recurring warnings. Despite these precautions, the aircraft experienced a dramatic mid-air blowout on January 5th, resulting in the missing section of the fuselage.
The NTSB chief highlighted that the pilots had reported pressurization warning lights in the days leading up to the incident. An additional maintenance check was requested but remained incomplete, contributing to the subsequent blowout.
Remarkably, the missing section of the plane, a 27kg (60lb) fuselage plug, was discovered in the backyard of a Portland teacher, providing investigators with a crucial piece of the puzzle to determine the cause of the blowout. Two mobile phones, believed to have fallen from the aircraft during the incident, were also found, shedding light on the chaos inside the cabin.
The FAA had grounded 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 planes of the same type as safety checks continue, impacting operations for airlines such as Alaska Airlines and United Airlines. Despite Alaska Airlines briefly returning some Max 9s to service, the FAA intervened with a broader grounding. The FAA’s decision came after reports of a chaotic situation onboard, with the cockpit door opening due to the force of the blowout.
This incident occurs during a difficult period for Boeing, as the business has been under investigation following two deadly disasters involving the 737 Max series in 2018 and 2019. The recent incidents have raised fresh doubts about the aircraft’s safety, which has caused significant disruptions in the aviation sector and requests for more oversight and safety precautions.