Boeing Max 9 jets not put into operation as airlines await inspection instructions

Boeing Max 9 jets not put into operation as airlines await inspection instructions

A Boeing passenger jet model, the 737 Max 9, remained grounded in the United States on Sunday as airlines awaited instructions from the plane maker and the Federal Aviation Administration on how to inspect the planes and resume service, two days. A painful flight later raised concerns. About jet.

No one was seriously injured in an incident on an Alaska Airlines flight Friday night in which a portion of a Max 9’s fuselage flew through the air, leaving passengers exposed to strong winds. The plane landed safely, but crashed in Portland, Ore. The incident, which occurred during a flight from Ontario, California, has horrified passengers and prompted urgent calls for safety inspections on Max 9 planes with similar seat configurations.

Boeing and the FAA were working on drafting a message to airlines — primarily Alaska and United Airlines — with detailed instructions about inspecting the planes, according to a person familiar with the process. Those discussions were well underway Sunday, and the FAA has final approval on the content of the message, as it typically does.

Meanwhile, Alaska, United and other carriers said they had parked all of their Max 9 planes, although on Saturday they said some were deemed safe to fly. Federal officials have focused on the mid-cabin door plug, which was part of the plane’s structure that broke off at 16,000 feet on Friday and is used to fill the space where the plane housed an emergency exit. Will go. Was configured with more seats.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the episode, has not identified the cause and is searching for the missing piece of the plane. The board said it would look at a wide range of potential factors, including FAA inspections, Boeing’s manufacturing process and installation or maintenance work performed on the aircraft.

“Everything is in place, we’ve been very comprehensive, nothing has been excluded,” board Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said at a news conference Saturday night.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday that the required inspections will affect 171 Max 9 planes operated by American airlines or on U.S. territory. It says the inspection should take four to eight hours per aircraft to complete. Airlines abroad, including Turkish Airlines and Copa Airlines, also parked Max 9 aircraft in Panama.

The FAA order caused hundreds of flights to be canceled over the weekend. As of Sunday evening, Alaska had canceled 163 flights, or 21 percent of those scheduled for the day, according to FlightAware. The airline has 65 Max 9 aircraft. Passengers took to social media to complain about long phone calls to customer service and inadequate compensation as they had to wait at the airport and faced long delays and sudden cancellations.

United Airlines said it canceled about 270 flights on Saturday and Sunday that it had planned to operate on its Max 9 planes. It said it was able to preserve another 145 flights on both days by swapping other aircraft.

United has 79 Max 9 aircraft, more than any other carrier. In a statement Sunday, the airline said it has parked all those planes and begun removing door panels and conducting initial inspections on those jets while it awaits further instructions from the FAA on whether to ground the planes. What inspections will need to be done to fly again? ,

“We are continuing to work with the FAA to clarify the inspection process and requirements for returning all Max 9 aircraft to service,” the airline said in a statement. “We are working with customers to re-accommodate them on other flights and in some cases have been able to avoid cancellations by switching to other types of aircraft.”

Aviation safety expert and former NTSB investigator Greg Faith said this was the type of incident in which “until you really get into the investigation – you identify all the facts, conditions and circumstances of this particular incident – ​​do you determine Is this a one-time problem or a systemic problem?”

Meanwhile, everyone who builds, services, operates and regulates aircraft will remain in the spotlight.

It is unclear whether Boeing is to blame for what happened to the Alaska Airlines plane, but the episode raises new questions for the manufacturer and puts additional pressure on it. Another version of the Max, the 737 Max 8, was involved in two crashes that killed hundreds of people in 2018 and 2019 and grounded that plane around the world.

“The issue is what’s going on at Boeing,” said John Goglia, a longtime aviation safety consultant and retired member of the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates airplane crashes.

Last month, the company urged airlines to inspect more than 1,300 delivered Max planes for possible loose bolts in the rudder-control system. Over the summer, Boeing said a major supplier the holes were drilled incorrectly A component that helps maintain cabin pressure. Since then, Boeing has invested in and worked more closely with that supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, to resolve production problems.

“We’re seeing increased consistency and quality performance within our factories, but we’re working to bring the supply chain up to the same standards,” Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun said on a call with investor analysts and reporters in October. Are.” ,

Spirit AeroSystems also worked on the fuselage of the 737 Max 9, including the fabrication and installation of the door plug that failed on the Alaska Airlines flight.

Deliveries of another Boeing aircraft, the twin-aisle 787 Dreamliner, were virtually halted for more than a year, until summer 2022, while the plane maker asked the FAA to address various quality concerns, including paper-thin gaps in the plane. Had worked with. Body.

Another flaw discovered last summer again slowed deliveries of the aircraft. And production of both the 737 and 787 has been slow to ramp up amid quality and other supply chain issues.

The Max was grounded in early 2019 after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed a total of 346 people. For more than 20 months, Boeing worked with regulators around the world to fix problems with the plane’s flight control software and other components.

By the time passenger flights resumed on the Max in late 2020, the crisis had cost the company about $20 billion.

Two medium-sized versions of the aircraft, the Max 8 and Max 9, have since been flying. But the smallest, the Max 7, and the largest, the Max 10, have still to be approved by regulators.

The Max is the best-selling aircraft in Boeing’s history. More than 4,500 outstanding orders for the aircraft constitute more than 76 percent of Boeing’s order book. The plane is also popular among airlines: About 5 percent of the nearly three million flights scheduled globally this month are planned to be operated using the Max, mostly the Max 8, according to aviation data provider Cirium.

“Every American deserves a full explanation from Boeing and the FAA about what went wrong and what steps are being taken to ensure that another incident does not occur in the future,” Republican Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio said in a post Saturday. yes.” On X.

mark walker Contributed to the reporting.

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