SEATTLE- Alaska Airlines (AS) resumed operations of its Boeing 737 MAX 9 (737-9) after conducting fleet inspections for the first time since a door plug incident occurred mid-air three weeks ago. The airline’s inaugural MAX 9 flight, Alaska Flight AS1146, took off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday afternoon en route to San Diego.
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Returns
Alaska Airlines resumed operations of its 737 MAX 9 aircraft two days after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued final instructions to airlines for conducting inspections on these planes.
In a statement on Wednesday, Alaska confirmed its plan to reintroduce some of its 737 MAX 9 aircraft on Friday following a comprehensive inspection.
The airline stated on Friday, “Each of our 737-9 MAX will return to service only after the rigorous inspections are completed, and each plane is deemed airworthy according to FAA requirements. The individual inspections are expected to take up to 12 hours per aircraft.”
The FAA had globally grounded approximately 171 MAX 9s after a door plug incident occurred a few minutes after Alaska Flight 1282 departed from Portland International Airport on Jan. 5.
Passengers captured footage showing a hole where the door plug detached. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, and the plane executed an emergency landing safely.
The incident is currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Boeing Cooperating with Authorities
The FAA is intensifying its supervision of Boeing and has initiated an audit of the company’s production and manufacturing processes.
In a statement on Wednesday, Boeing mentioned its commitment to maintaining full cooperation with the FAA, stating, “We 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 collaborate closely with our airline customers as they carry out the necessary inspection procedures to safely reintegrate their 737-9 airplanes into service,” the statement added.
The FAA, after conducting a thorough review of data from 40 inspections of grounded planes, approved a detailed set of inspection and maintenance instructions.
A Corrective Action Review Board, comprising safety experts, carefully scrutinized and endorsed the inspection and maintenance process.
The enhanced maintenance process involves inspecting specific bolts, guide tracks, and fittings, conducting detailed visual examinations of left and right mid-cabin exit door plugs and numerous associated components, retorquing fasteners, and addressing any damage or abnormal conditions.
United Airlines (UA) COO Toby Enqvist indicated in a note to employees that the company plans to have the 737 MAX 9 back in service on Sunday.
Alaska’s entire fleet is anticipated to be fully operational in the first week of February, as stated by CEO Ben Minicucci during an earnings call on Thursday. The airline currently operates 65 737 Max 9 planes in its fleet.
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