On Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandated the temporary grounding of specific Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft. The order came after a concerning incident involving an Alaska Airlines flight a day earlier.
The emergency grounding applies to 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 planes. The FAA’s directive necessitates thorough inspections, expected to last between four to eight hours per aircraft before they can be returned to service. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker told reporters, “Safety will continue to drive our decision-making as we assist the NTSB’s investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.”
FAA grounds Boeing 737 Max 9 planes after Alaska Airlines incidenthttps://t.co/oUMIo6dUXx
— Interesting Engineering (@IntEngineering) January 7, 2024
The incident that prompted this decisive action occurred on an Alaska Airlines flight from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California. Shortly after takeoff, a panel detached from the aircraft, leading to rapid decompression. The skilled pilots swiftly turned back, safely landing at Portland International Airport. Remarkably, there were no significant injuries despite the severity of the event.
The response from both the airline and aircraft manufacturer has been swift and responsible. Alaska Airlines announced grounding all its Boeing 737-9 Max jets for inspections, anticipating a quick resolution within days. Boeing, aligning with the FAA’s decision, expressed its commitment to safety and support for the ongoing investigation.
The FAA is requiring immediate inspections of certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes before they can return to flight.
— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) January 6, 2024
The FAA grounding order had an immediate impact on domestic travel. United Airlines reported at least 60 flight cancellations on Saturday, despite 33 of its 79 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft already having undergone the required inspection. The airline is actively working with affected customers to offer alternative travel options.
This incident is particularly notable given the history of the Boeing 737 Max series. After fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019, the 737 Max was grounded worldwide for nearly two years. Though non-fatal, the recent Alaska Airlines incident revives concerns about the model’s safety despite Boeing’s efforts to rectify past issues. In 2021, Boeing agreed to a $2.5 billion settlement with the Department of Justice over the earlier crashes, highlighting the grave consequences of lapses in aviation safety.
Joe Biden’s Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Safety will always be the top priority for our Department and for FAA.”
The temporary grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 9 fleet is a direct reminder of the importance of continuous vigilance and proactive measures in ensuring the well-being of passengers and crew.