On Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered US airlines to stop using some Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft until they were inspected, after one of those planes lost a piece of its fuselage in the air, which terrified passengers until the plane landed safely.
Alaska and United Airlines on Saturday began canceling dozens of flights after grounding their Max 9 fleets so the planes can undergo mandatory federal inspections.
The Max 9 plane involved in Friday's accident took off from Portland, Oregon, on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, bound for Ontario, California. The plane returned to Portland about 20 minutes after takeoff, and no one on board was seriously injured. Those on board described the wind blowing through a large gap that revealed the night sky and city lights below.
Although the FAA has not yet publicly discussed the cause of the accident, it has ordered airlines to inspect what it called a “mid-cabin door seal.”
Some Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft are equipped with fewer than the maximum number of seats and therefore do not need all the exits originally designed for the aircraft. Those unnecessary doors are filled with a plug. Flight 1282 had two closed doors, located between the back of the plane and the emergency exits on the wing.
Jennifer Homendy, head of the National Transportation Safety Board, the body responsible for investigating plane accidents, said one of the plane's door plugs broke off 10 minutes after the airport while the plane was at an altitude of about 16,000 feet.
Ms. Homendy said Saturday at a news conference in Portland that the door stop was located near seats A and B in row 26 — which were empty. It also said the outcome could have been much worse had it occurred at high altitudes, with seatbelt signs potentially removed and passengers and crew moving around the plane.
Ms. Homendy said investigators will compare the seal of the second door, at the other end of the corridor, with the one that exploded in the hopes of determining what went wrong. She added that investigators will also look at things like the pressure system and the plane's maintenance records.
The Boeing 737 Max 9 in question is a relatively new Alaska Airlines aircraft, having been delivered to the airline on October 31. It was approved in November, according to FAA registration From planes. It entered commercial service that month and has since recorded 145 flights, according to Aviation Radar24Another website for tracking flights.
Forrest Gossett, a spokesman for Spirit AeroSystems, said Saturday that his company has installed door seals on Max 9s, and that Spirit installed the plug on an Alaska Airlines flight.
The FAA order affects about 171 aircraft. The agency said the required inspections should take between four to eight hours per aircraft.
Dave Spiro, president of Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, a union that represents more than 11,000 FAA workers, including safety inspectors, said Saturday that aviation safety experts from his union will be on the ground with the NTSB to help them determine how the plug was blown out. The Plane.
“From our point of view, there is no acceptable situation in which this kind of thing could happen; “This kind of risk should not be presented,” Mr Spiro said.
As the Transportation Safety Board continued its investigation, it asked the public for help finding the door of the plane, which they say likely went down in Portland's Cedar Hills neighborhood, according to Radar.
Boeing MAX aircraft have a troubled history. After two Max 8 crashes that killed hundreds of people within several months in 2018 and 2019, the Max was grounded worldwide.
In 2018, Lion Air Flight 610, a 737 MAX 8, crashed into the ocean off the coast of Indonesia, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Less than five months later in 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed shortly after departing from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board.
The MAX planes were grounded after the second accident. Boeing made changes to the plane, including the flight control system behind the two crashes, and the FAA cleared it to fly again in late 2020. In 2021, the company agreed to a $2.5 billion settlement with the Department of Justice, resolving the Criminal Boeing conspired to defraud the agency.
In December, Boeing urged airlines to inspect all 737 MAX planes for a possible loose bolt in the rudder control system after an international airline discovered a bolt with a missing nut during routine maintenance. Alaska Airlines said at the time that it expected to complete inspections of its fleet in the first half of January.
Airplanes are widely used. Of the nearly 2.9 million flights scheduled globally in January, 4.3 percent are scheduled to be flown using MAX 8 aircraft, while 0.7 percent are scheduled to be flown using MAX 9 aircraft.
John Yoon, Victoria Kim, Orlando Mayorquin, Rebecca Carballo And Christine Chung Contributed to reports.