**The recent discovery of loose hardware in United and Alaska’s Boeing 737 Max 9 planes**
The aviation industry was recently shaken by the discovery of loose parts on grounded Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft operated by United Airlines and Alaska Airlines. The concerns have raised new questions about the manufacturing process and quality control for these passenger planes.
**FAA Grounding and Inspections**
Following a midair blowout incident that forced an Alaska-operated plane to make an emergency landing, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took immediate action by grounding 171 Max 9 planes worldwide. United Airlines reported finding bolts that required additional tightening, while Alaska Airlines revealed that their technicians observed some loose hardware during fleet checks. The focus of these inspections is on an area known as the door plug, which is a cover panel used to fill an unneeded emergency exit in aircraft with fewer seats. The cabin panel that blew out on the Alaskan flight was a door plug, leading the FAA to order the grounding of all aircraft with the same configuration.
**Fleet and Industry Impact**
With United operating 79 Max 9 planes and Alaska operating 65, the impact is significant. Additionally, a few other airlines also operate these planes. The incident has generated concerns about the production process and quality control for the Max 9, reigniting the controversy surrounding the 737 Max family of aircraft. This family has faced scrutiny since the worldwide grounding in March 2019 after two crashes claimed 346 lives.
**Response from Boeing and FAA**
Boeing, the manufacturer of the aircraft, has stated its commitment to working closely with operators and addressing any findings during the inspections. The company emphasized its dedication to ensuring that every Boeing airplane meets design specifications and upholds the highest safety and quality standards. The FAA approved a roadmap for carriers to conduct enhanced inspections of the door plugs, components, and fasteners on both left and right sides of the aircraft before allowing them to return to service.
**Continued Investigation and Recovery**
US investigators are actively looking into the midair blowout incident to determine the underlying causes. Despite the sudden depressurization, none of the passengers or crew suffered serious injuries. Additionally, personal items were sucked out of the plane, and oxygen masks had to be deployed. The recovery of the panel from a Portland backyard has provided the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) with crucial evidence for their investigation. The NTSB is focused on examining whether the door plug was properly secured with bolts or if there were issues with the fasteners.
The discovery of loose hardware in the Boeing 737 Max 9 planes used by United and Alaska Airlines has ignited concerns about the aircraft’s manufacturing process and quality control. While the industry and regulatory authorities are taking necessary steps to address the issue, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of stringent safety measures in aviation. The ongoing investigations and enhanced inspections are crucial in ensuring the safety and reliability of these aircraft before they can return to service.