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Saturday,  July 13, 2024 10:09 AM 

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

U.S. grounds Boeing 737-9 MAXs after Alaska Airlines blowout; Canadian airlines don’t fly model
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)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Canadian airlines have confirmed that they don’t fly the Boeing aircraft model that U.S. officials temporarily grounded over the weekend after an Alaska Airlines plane suffered a mid-air blowout on Friday (Jan. 5).

Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, Flair and Lynx told media on Saturday (Jan. 6) that they don’t operate Boeing 737-9 MAX jetliners, which the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is inspecting to find out why a window blew out shortly after takeoff.

The incident, which occurred nearly five kilometres above Oregon late Friday, left a gaping hole that forced pilots to make an emergency landing.

Pictures posted by passengers online appear to show a panel that can be used as an optional rear mid-cabin emergency exit door had ripped away.

Reports say Alaska Airlines, which was carrying 177 passengers and crew at the time of the incident, landed safely back in Portland.

The airline cancelled more than 100 flights, or 15 per cent of its Saturday schedule by midday, according to FlightAware data.

As reported by the BBC, Alaska said it would "temporarily" ground all 65 of its 737 MAX 9 aircraft to conduct inspections.

The reviews will take about four to eight hours per aircraft and will affect roughly 171 airplanes globally, the Associated Press reports.

United said the inspections would result in about 60 cancellations.

The Canadian airlines mentioned above say they aren’t impacted by the event because they only fly 737-8 MAX aircraft, which apparently has a different door configuration than the 9 model.

“Air Canada has only the Boeing 737-8 version of the MAX aircraft in its fleet. We have 40 of these aircraft and they have performed very reliably with an excellent safety record,” Air Canada told CTV News. “The mid-cabin exit door configuration only applies to the 737 MAX 9, and is not present on our 737 MAX 8.”

WestJet also confirmed with the news outlet that its Boeing MAX 8 “does not have the same door in question with this event.”

Boeing 737 MAX-9 airplanes are not used by Air Transat or Porter Airlines either

"We are very, very fortunate”

The seat that was next to the panel that ripped off during the Alaska Airlines flight was unoccupied at the time, reports say.  

"We are very, very fortunate here that this didn't end up in something more tragic," said the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Jennifer Homendy on Saturday (Jan. 6).

Overseas, the U.K.'s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has confirmed that there are no U.K.-registered 737 MAX 9 aircraft.

"We have written to non-U.K. and foreign permit carriers to ask inspections have been undertaken prior to operation in U.K. airspace," the authority wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Turkish Airlines, meanwhile, has recalled its five MAX 9 planes for safety checks.

The aircraft was new

The Alaska Airlines plane that lost its exit door was nearly new, operating only since November, according to Flightradar24.

The MAX 9 is the newest version of Boeing's 737 aircraft, which is a twin-engine, single-aisle plane commonly used for U.S. domestic flights. The plane first went into service in May of 2017.

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.

Boeing, on Saturday, issued the following statement:

"Safety is our top priority and we deeply regret the impact this event has had on our customers and their passengers. We agree with and fully support the FAA's decision to require immediate inspections of 737-9 airplanes with the same configuration as the affected airplane.”

“In addition, a Boeing technical team is supporting the NTSB's investigation into last night's event. We will remain in close contact with our regulator and customers."

The Alaska Airlines incident came days after a Japan Airlines (JAL) plane collided with a Coast Guard aircraft at Tokyo's Haneda airport, killing five of six crew on the smaller aircraft. 

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