The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced all 171 Boeing 737-9 Max aircraft will remain grounded after a window and chunk of fuselage blew out of one of its Alaska Airlines passenger planes in mid-air.
The US transportation agency said the planes would not fly until “enhanced inspections” of jets were completed including both left and right cabin doors, exit plugs, door components, and fasteners.
It had ordered the grounding for checks of planes installed with the same kind of panel that fell from the brand new jet on Friday, which weighs about 27kg and covers an optional exit door.
The affected fleet, including those operated by other carriers such as United Airlines, would remain grounded until the regulator deemed they were safe.
The FAA had said on Saturday it expected the inspections would take four to eight hours per plane.
Alaska Airlines announced cancellations of some 140 flights for Monday due to the grounding.
The door plug – which the National Transportation Safety Board says has been recovered – tore off after the plane took off from Portland, Oregon, causing depressurisation and forcing pilots to turn back.
The plane, with 171 passengers and six crew on board, landed safely.
While only minor injuries were reported from the blowout, the situation could have been “very dangerous,” according to David Learmount, consulting editor at Flightglobal.
“If there were people near it who were not wearing the seatbelts they would have disappeared,” he told Sky News.
Boeing said it “fully supports” the administration’s decision to require inspections of 737-9 MAX planes “with the
same configuration” as the aircraft that was forced to land.
It is the latest issue for Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, after its 737 MAX aircraft were grounded for a year and a half following two crashes in 2018 and 2019.
iPhone miraculously survives
Extraordinarily, an iPhone that fell thousands of feet from the Alaska Airlines flight after being sucked out is still intact.
Game designer Sean Bates found the device on the side of the road and posted photos of it on X still switched on in airplane mode with 44% battery.