The midair incident prompted the Alaska Airlines flight to California to make an emergency landing

United and Alaska find “loose parts” on grounded Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft

United Airlines and Alaska Airlines reported discovering loose parts on several grounded Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft, prompting fresh concerns from aviation industry experts regarding the manufacturing process of these passenger planes.

Following an incident where a cabin panel detached from an Alaska-operated plane midair on Friday, leading to an emergency landing by the pilots, the  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), responsible for regulating the industry in the United States, globally grounded 171 Max 9 planes. The incident comes after other safety issues have been linked to Boeing’s Max line of aircraft, heightening concerns about the jet’s safety. 

The FAA said the Boeing 737-9 aircraft will remain grounded until operators complete enhanced inspections which include both left and right cabin door exit plugs, door components, and fasteners. Operators must also complete corrective action requirements based on findings from the inspections prior to bringing any aircraft back into service, the regulatory body said. 

The Boeing 737 Max 9 belongs to the Max series of jets produced by the aircraft manufacturer, introduced alongside the 737 Max 8 jets that made their debut in 2016, as reported by Airways Magazine. Designed for increased fuel efficiency compared to earlier 737 models, the Max line aims to provide airlines with a more economical operational option.

Certified by the FAA in 2018, the Max 9 jets, according to Boeing, have a seating capacity of up to 220 passengers and a range of 3,300 miles. At present, only two U.S. airlines operate the Boeing 737 Max 9: Alaska Airlines and United Airlines. United holds the position as the largest global operator of Max 9s. According to aviation analytics firm Cirium, these two airlines collectively manage approximately two-thirds of the 215 Max 9 aircraft currently in service worldwide.
The aircraft manufacturer said it will remain in close contact with operators to ensure safety of customers and passengers. “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 the Jan. 5 accident. We will remain in close contact with our regulator and customers.”