Boeing 737 Max 9 Planes Grounded Amid Safety Concerns Following Alaska Airlines Incident

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PC: BBC

In the wake of a concerning incident involving an Alaska Airlines plane, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced the grounding of 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 planes until safety concerns are adequately addressed. The FAA, prioritizing public safety, is conducting inspections following the detachment of part of an Alaska Airlines plane’s fuselage last Friday.

The grounding has led to widespread disruptions primarily affecting flights within the United States. Major carriers, including United Airlines and Alaska, have canceled numerous flights, impacting thousands of passengers. Turkish Airlines, Copa Airlines of Panama, and Aeromexico have also grounded their Boeing 737 Max 9 jets for inspections.

Alaska Airlines, which grounded 65 planes, anticipates travel disruptions lasting until at least midweek and has canceled 163 flights, constituting 21% of its schedule. Similarly, United Airlines has grounded 79 planes, resulting in the cancellation of 230 flights, or 8% of its departures.

The incident that prompted these safety measures occurred during Alaska Airlines flight 1282 from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California. At 16,000 feet, the plane initiated an emergency descent, with passengers reporting a sizable section of the outer shell falling off shortly after take-off. The emergency landing in Portland was successful, with the airline confirming several injuries, though not severe.

Authorities are actively searching for the missing plug door, believed to have fallen in the western suburbs of Portland. The public has been urged to assist in locating the panel.

Boeing’s 737 Max has faced intense scrutiny following previous safety issues, leading to a global grounding from March 2019 to late 2020 after two similar crashes resulted in fatalities. Recent concerns led the FAA to advise airlines to inspect Max models for potential loose bolts in rudder control systems.

Boeing, having resolved supply errors, announced an increased pace of 737 Max deliveries. Despite being one of the most scrutinized aircraft in history, with approximately 1,300 units delivered, the recent incident underscores ongoing safety challenges for the Boeing 737 Max series.