The Associated Press is reporting that Alaska Airlines has once again suspended operations of its Boeing 737 Max 9 fleet as of Sunday, in response to directives from federal authorities. This precautionary measure follows concerns over the need for additional maintenance to prevent incidents similar to the recent in-flight fuselage damage experienced by one of its aircraft.
The airline had reinstated 18 out of 65 planes from this model on Saturday after conducting thorough inspections. This decision was made less than a day after the incident, where a section of the fuselage of one aircraft was compromised at an altitude of three miles (4.8 kilometers) above Oregon on Friday evening.
Alaska Airlines has decided to ground its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft for safety evaluations. This decision comes after an incident involving a new airplane that experienced a cabin panel blowout. The aircraft, operating as Flight 1282, was en route from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California, when the incident occurred shortly after takeoff. The pilots returned to Portland and successfully landed the aircraft, which was carrying 171 passengers and six crew members.
This latest incident adds to the string of problems associated with Boeing’s 737 MAX 9 model. The aircraft type was previously grounded for nearly two years following two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019. Boeing and its major suppliers have been facing a series of production and quality challenges recently.
(UPDATE: Boeing issues statement…see below)
Fleet-Wide Safety Checks Instituted by Alaska
The cause of the cabin panel blowout is currently under investigation, and there have been no reports of injuries resulting from the incident. Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci stated, “its fleet of 65 similar planes would be returned to service only after precautionary maintenance and safety inspections,” which he anticipates will be completed within the “next few days.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has announced that a team of experts specializing in structures, operations, and systems will be investigating the incident. The NTSB team was expected to arrive at the site on Saturday.
Boeing's Active Involvement in Assessing Recent Flight 1282 Incident
Boeing is also conducting its own inquiry into the matter. A statement from Boeing read, “We are working to gather more information and are in contact with our airline customer.”
According to data from FlightRadar24, Flight 1282 had reached an altitude of just over 16,000 feet when the panel blowout occurred.
UPDATE: Boeing Issues Statement on the 737-9 Inspections as a result of the Incident
“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.”
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