Boeing’s CEO Dave Calhoun has publicly acknowledged that his company made mistakes after a door-plug failure aboard one of its 737 MAX 9s led to roughly 170 of its planes being grounded.
The aircraft maker is in hot water this week following an alarming mid-air incident whereby a panel blew out during an Alaska Airlines flight out of Portland last Friday (Jan. 5).
"We're going to approach this number one acknowledging our mistake," Calhoun told employees in an excerpt released by Boeing. "We're going to approach it with 100 per cent and complete transparency every step of the way."
As reported by Reuters, Calhoun said he would work with regulators to make sure an incident like this "can never happen again,” noting that he will make sure "every next airplane that moves into the sky is in fact safe.”
He praised Alaska Airlines’ for making an emergency landing back in Portland, where all 177 passengers and crew disembarked. Despite extensive damage to the plane’s exterior, no injuries were reported.
"Loose hardware" found
The MAX 9, which first went into service in May 2017, is the newest version of Boeing’s 737 aircraft.
The now-damaged plane that Alaska Airlines’ was flying was nearly new, operating only since November, according to Flightradar24.
Last weekend, after the Alaska Airlines incident, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded 171 planes, ordering inspections of the MAX 9, a twin-engine, single-aisle plane commonly used for U.S. domestic flights.
The move left nearly 200,000 passengers facing cancellations last Saturday through Monday, reports say, as the inspections began.
Upon reviewing its aircraft, Alaska, which operates 65 MAX 9s, confirmed Monday that its technicians found "loose hardware" on some of its planes in relevant areas.
United Airlines, which has 79 MAX 9s in its fleet, also ordered plane inspections and it, too, found loose parts, according to reports.
The carrier said Monday that its preliminary checks found bolts that needed tightening on several panels.
U.S. investigators are now trying to determine if whether four bolts that were supposed to hold the panel might have been missing when the plane took off.
The disclosures have heightened concerns about Boeing’s production process of its MAX 9s.
Other carriers that fly the Boeing 737 MAX 9 jetliners include Copa Airlines, Aeromexico, Turkish Airlines, Icelandair, Lion Air, Flyduabi and SCAT (a small Kazakh carrier).
As reported earlier this week, airlines in Canada don’t fly the aircraft model. However, Canadians connecting to U.S. flights could still be impacted.
WestJet and Alaska have an interline agreement, while Air Canada and United share a codeshare deal that lets passengers book trips with either carrier to about 50 destinations in the U.S. and Canada.
Porter and Alaska, too, have a new partnership aimed at providing passengers more flight options from coast to coast.
Boeing’s 737 MAX series is no stranger to controversy.
In a statement Tuesday (Jan. 9), Boeing said: "We continue to be in close contact with our customers and the FAA on the required inspections. As part of the process, we are making updates based on their feedback and requirements."
Alaska & United cancel more flights
Alaska and United airlines, meanwhile, have cancelled more flights in the wake of the MAX 9 groundings.
Alaska said Wednesday (Jan. 10). that all flights scheduled on 737 Max 9 aircraft would be cancelled through Saturday (Jan. 13) while it continues to conduct inspections and prepare for the planes’ return.
The move will result in 110 to 150 cancelled flights per day, the carrier said.
"We hope this action provides guests with a little more certainty, and we are working around the clock to reaccommodate impacted guests on other flights," Alaska said.
United said 167 of its MAX 9 flights would be cancelled for Wednesday, though about 45 cancellations would be reinstated as other aircraft are utilized.
But the airline said it expects "significant" cancellations on Thursday too.