FAA Temporarily Grounds Boeing 737 Max 9 Following Alaska Airlines Incident
In response to an alarming incident where a panel on an Alaska Airlines flight detached midair, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) declared the temporary grounding of several Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft operated by American Airlines. The announcement followed an emergency landing of a flight from Oregon to California, prompting Alaska Airlines to ground its entire fleet of 65 Boeing 737 Max 9 planes for inspections.
The FAA’s directive impacts approximately 171 out of 218 Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft worldwide. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker emphasized the immediate need for inspections before these planes can resume flight operations, ensuring passenger safety. The decision was prompted by a mid-cabin doorplug detachment on an Alaska Airlines flight, causing rapid decompression.
Alaska Airlines flight 1282, en route to Ontario International Airport, experienced the panel separation shortly after takeoff from Portland, Oregon. The aircraft made a safe return to Portland International Airport, with all 171 passengers and six staff members on board unharmed.
Boeing expressed support for the FAA’s decision, prioritizing safety and expressing regret for any inconvenience caused to customers. A Boeing technical team is assisting the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in its investigation.
United Airlines and Copa Airlines also temporarily grounded some Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft for inspections. Alaska Airlines reported that 25% of their inspections were completed with no concerning findings, allowing 18 aircraft to resume operations. The remaining checks are expected to conclude in the coming days.
The incident involved a unique door replacement “plug,” manufactured and installed by Spirit AeroSystems, prompting the FAA to prohibit affected Boeing 737 Max 9s from flying until inspections and necessary fixes are completed.
While acknowledging the rarity of such incidents, Alaska Airlines assured that their flight crew, equipped with proper training, handled the situation safely. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been briefed on the incident, maintaining close contact with the FAA regarding the response.
The temporary grounding of Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft, affecting airlines like Alaska and United, raises concerns but reflects a proactive approach to address potential safety issues before they escalate. The FAA’s directive aligns with ongoing efforts to prioritize passenger safety and prevent a recurrence of past aviation incidents.