Following a recent alarming incident involving an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 flight experiencing a plug door blowout mid-flight, United Airlines has taken precautionary measures by grounding all 171 Boeing 737 Max 9s across various fleets.
The decision was prompted by the discovery of loose bolts in a similar door during a routine inspection announced on January 8, 2024. This inspection is part of an ongoing safety audit aimed at ensuring the airworthiness of Boeing 737s.
The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has prioritized public safety, stating that the affected airplanes will remain grounded until they are deemed safe. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a diagram illustrating the sealing of unused exits on planes using door plugs secured with bolts, cables, and stop pads.
United Airlines revealed that their preliminary inspections revealed issues related to the installation of the door plug, such as bolts requiring additional tightening. The airline’s Tech Ops team is actively addressing these findings to safely return the aircraft to service.
United Airlines is working diligently to resume operations, acknowledging the suspension of service on the affected aircraft and the cancellation of 200 MAX 9 flights as of Monday. They anticipate further cancellations on Tuesday but have managed to operate some planned flights by utilizing alternative aircraft types. While the exact number of loose bolts was not specified, reports from The Air Current suggest that at least five aircraft were affected.
Boeing, in response to the situation, expressed commitment to ensuring every Boeing airplane meets design specifications and the highest safety standards. The company regretted the impact on customers and passengers and emphasized collaboration with operators to address inspection findings.
The incident that triggered these safety measures occurred during an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX flight from Portland to Ontario, California. The aircraft, only two months old, experienced a blown-out aft door plug while flying at approximately 16,000 feet. The pilots decided to turn back and make an emergency landing.
The NTSB, responsible for investigating the Alaska Airlines incident, has not yet commented on United Airlines’ findings. NTSB investigators located the door plug from the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on Sunday, January 7. The intact plug, measuring 26-by-46 inches and weighing 63 pounds, is crucial evidence being examined under a laboratory microscope. It was discovered in the backyard of a Portland teacher’s home.
In conclusion, these developments underscore the aviation industry’s commitment to safety, with both regulatory authorities and airlines taking proactive steps to address potential issues and ensure the airworthiness of Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft.