FAA orders temporary grounding of 737 MAX 9 aircraft

Alaska Airlines flight AS1282 will be remembered as another negative milestone in exploiting the Boeing 737 MAX. Flight from Portland to Ontario was returned to the airport of departure shortly after takeoff because approximately 7 minutes after takeoff, a part of the fuselage fell off the aircraft. Decompression occurred in the aircraft’s cabin, reaching an altitude of 16,300 ft, and the oxygen masks fell out. None of the 171 passengers and 6 crew members were injured.

The aircraft on which the incident took place is a Boeing 737 MAX 9, registration number N704AL. According to Airfleets, the aircraft is only 2.4 months old. The accident occurred due to the compression of the cabin, during which the increased pressure inside the aircraft broke out a panel on the fuselage, which is intended for emergency exits on aircraft of a different configuration or larger models from the MAX series.

Shortly after the incident, Alaska Airlines management decided to ground 65 of its 737 MAX 9 aircraft for inspections of the disputed fairing panels. Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said: “At Alaska Airlines, safety is our foundational value and the most important thing we focus on every day. Following tonight’s event on Flight 1282, we have decided to take the precautionary step of temporarily grounding our fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 aircraft. Each aircraft will be returned to service only after completion of full maintenance and safety inspections. We anticipate all inspections will be completed in the next few days. I am personally committed to doing everything we can to conduct this review in a timely and transparent way.”

An additional precautionary step was taken by the US FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), which decided to temporarily ground 171 aircraft of the same model and series of US carriers, or aircraft located on US territory. Namely, an Emergency Airworthiness Directive was issued according to which the aircraft is declared unairworthy until detailed inspections of the fuselage have been carried out.

“The FAA is requiring immediate inspections of certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes before they can return to flight,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said. “Safety will continue to drive our decision-making as we assist the NTSB’s investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.”
The Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD) that will be issued shortly will require operators to inspect aircraft before further flight that do not meet the inspection cycles specified in the EAD. The required inspections will take around four to eight hours per aircraft. The EAD will affect approximately 171 airplanes worldwide.”

Until the conclusion of the article, no other aviation regulatory agency has ordered the grounding and/or emergency inspections of this aircraft.

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