Boeing Faces Pressure as 2 Airlines Find Loose Parts During Inspections
Boeing Faces Pressure as 2 Airlines Find Loose Parts During Inspections

By Aldgra Fredly

United Airlines and Alaska Airlines have both reported finding loose parts on several 737 Max 9 planes during inspections, which were initiated after a door plug of an Alaska Airlines-operated flight blew off in mid-air last week.

In a statement on Jan. 8, Alaska Airlines said that initial reports from its technicians, who were preparing its 737 Max 9 fleet for inspections, indicated “some loose hardware” was visible on some aircraft.

However, the airline said it still requires final documentation from Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before it can commence the formal inspection process.

“We continue to wait for final documentation from Boeing and the FAA before we can begin the formal inspection process.

“When we are able to proceed with the formal inspection process, all aircraft will be thoroughly inspected in accordance with detailed instructions provided by the FAA in consultation with Boeing,” it stated.

United Airlines also said that it found issues related to the installation of door plugs—including loose bolts—while inspecting Boeing 737 Max 9 planes.

“Since we began preliminary inspections on Saturday, we have found instances that appear to relate to installation issues in the door plug—for example, bolts that needed additional tightening,” United said in a statement to The Epoch Times.

The carrier added that its technicians would remedy the problems and “safely return the aircraft to service,” adding that it’s still waiting for final approval from the FAA on the full inspection process.

The two airlines, which are the only U.S. carriers to use the Max 9 aircraft, have canceled a total of 387 flights as of the afternoon of Jan. 8, according to tracking site FlightAware.

Boeing said in an update on Monday that it maintains in close contact with operators and will help them address “any and all findings.”

“We are committed to ensuring every Boeing airplane meets design specifications and the highest safety and quality standards,” it said. “We regret the impact this has had on our customers and their passengers.”

Any prolonged concerns may increase pressure on Boeing, which has suffered from numerous production issues since the wider grounding of the 737 MAX family in March 2019 that lasted 20 months after two deadly crashes killed 346 people.

FAA Orders 737 Max 9 Aircraft to Remain Grounded

The FAA said Monday that all Boeing 737 Max 9 planes would remain grounded until operators “complete enhanced inspections which include both left and right cabin door exit plugs, door components, and fasteners.”

“Operators must also complete corrective action requirements based on findings from the inspections prior to bringing any aircraft back into service,” it stated.

The FAA also said that it would continue to support the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.

The damaged part of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9, Flight 1282, which was forced to return to Portland International Airport on Jan. 5, 2024. (The Oregonian via AP)

The flight was en route to Ontario, California, from Portland, Oregon, on Friday when its door plug blew off, forcing the pilots to turn back and make an emergency landing.

Social media footage showed a window and a portion of a side wall panel missing on the airplane and oxygen masks deployed. The airplane, carrying 171 passengers and six crew members, safely returned to Portland International Airport.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said on Jan. 7 that the missing door plug had been found in a schoolteacher’s backyard in Portland.

“We’re going to go pick that up and make sure that we begin analyzing it,” Ms. Homendy told reporters.

The NTSB had earlier requested the public’s help in locating the missing plug, as the agency believed it could be a “key missing component” that would help determine the cause of the accident.

Tom Ozimek, Caden Pearson, and Reuters contributed to this report.

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