Alaska and United Discover Loose Bolts on More Boeing 737 MAX 9 Aircraft

by Anthony Losanno
United 737 MAX 9

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Yesterday, I wrote about how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that all Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft were to be grounded. This was in response to the terrifying incident that occurred on Alaska Airlines AS1282 Friday evening (more here). Now, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines has revealed that both carriers have found loose bolts on more Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft.

United Airlines had already grounded all of this aircraft type in its fleet on Saturday as it prepared to conduct inspections. This discovery of loose bolts, which was first reported by The Air Current makes this situation much more serious for Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems (they build the aircraft fuselage and install the plugs) as this could become a widespread issue with implications well beyond flight 1282. So far, five aircraft have been identified as having loose bolts (United has 79 of this aircraft type in its fleet).

In a statement to The Air Current, United said:

Since we began preliminary inspections on Saturday, we have found instances that appear to relate to the installation in the door plug – for example, bolts that needed additional tightening. These findings will be remedied by our Tech Ops team to safely return the aircraft to service.”

Alaska Airlines released information on its own aircraft (it has 64 of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 in its fleet). It has not started inspecting its own aircraft as it’s waiting for more direction from Boeing and the FAA. But, it’s not looking good as it also found loose bolts while preparing for these inspections. It updated the page with more information around flight 1282 and its Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft with the following:

As our maintenance technicians began preparing our 737-9 MAX fleet for inspections, they accessed the area in question. Initial reports from our technicians indicate some loose hardware was visible on some aircraft.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has stated that the Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft will remain grounded until enhanced inspections of both the left and right cabin door exit plugs, door components, and fasteners are completed. Corrective action requirements based on findings from the inspections must be completed before they can be brought back into service.

United and Alaska have cancelled hundreds of flights since having to ground these aircraft. Further cancellations will be announced today and will likely impact the carrier’s schedule for the near future.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recovered the door plug that blew out of Alaska flight 1282 yesterday afternoon. It was sent to Washington DC for further analysis.

Anthony’s Take: It is unknown how pervasive this issue will become. Thankfully, no one was injured and this will now be fully addressed before these aircraft are allowed to fly again.

(Featured Image Credit: United Airlines.)

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