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Monday,  March 4, 2024 11:24 PM 

FAA approves criteria for grounded Boeing 737 Max 9s to resume flights

  • Air
  •   01-25-2024  3:06 am
  •   Pax Global Media

FAA approves criteria for grounded Boeing 737 Max 9s to resume flights
(Shutterstock/Robin Guess)
Pax Global Media

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has green lit a set of inspection criteria for 171 grounded 737 Max 9 planes to return to service, reports say.

The controversial jetliners have been grounded ever since a panel blew out of an Alaska Airlines plane during a flight earlier this month.

Wednesday’s update from FAA means airlines can now begin formal inspections of their Max 9 planes, which Alaska says will begin immediately.

According to the Associated Press, the airline expects the first few aircraft to return to the skies this Friday (Jan. 26).

At the same time, the head of the FAA, Mike Whitaker, said Wednesday that the agency would not agree to any Boeing request to expand production of Max planes until quality-control concerns have been addressed.

READ MORE: Alaska Airlines blowout - Boeing CEO admits mistakes, more flights cancelled

“This won’t be back to business as usual for Boeing,” Whitaker was quoted as saying.

The production limits will apply only to the Max, of which there are currently two models, the 8 and the 9.

Boeing builds about 30 a month but has been wanting to raise production for a while now.

Loose hardware

The MAX 9, which first went into service in May 2017, is the newest version of Boeing’s 737 aircraft.

The now-damaged plane at Alaska Airlines was nearly new, operating only since November, according to Flightradar24.

Upon reviewing its aircraft, Alaska, which operates 65 MAX 9s, earlier said that its technicians found "loose hardware" on some of its planes in relevant areas.

U.S. officials are inspecting Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft to find out why an Alaska Airlines’ window blew out shortly after takeoff on Friday (Jan. 5). (@Kyrinker/X)

United Airlines, which has 79 MAX 9s in its fleet, also ordered plane inspections and it, too, found loose parts, reports say.

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).

READ MORE: U.S. grounds Boeing 737-9 MAXs after Alaska Airlines blowout; Canadian airlines don’t fly model

As reported earlier, airlines in Canada don’t fly the aircraft model. However, Canadians connecting to U.S. flights could still be impacted by potential disruptions.

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.

Transport Canada grounded all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in the country in March 2019 following two overseas crashes that left 346 passengers dead. The order that was lifted in January 2021.

The FAA is requiring Alaska and United airlines to conduct “detailed visual inspections” of door plugs and other components, adjust fasteners and fix any damage they find before putting Max 9s back into service.

The agency said the process was developed using data from inspections of 40 grounded aircraft.

In a statement Wednesday, Boeing said it will “continue to cooperate fully and transparently with the FAA and follow their direction as we take action to strengthen safety and quality at Boeing. We will also work closely with our airline customers as they complete the required inspection procedures to safely return their 737-9 airplanes to service.”

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