Alaska Airlines Backtracks on Clearing 737 Max 9s

FAA says more work might be required after part of fuselage blew out in midair
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2024 5:00 PM CST
Alaska Airlines Restores, Then Pulls Some 737 Max 9s
National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy speaks to the media about the investigation of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on Saturday in Portland, Oregon.   (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Alaska Airlines had to take a step backward Sunday in returning its 65 737 Max 9 aircraft to service after hearing from the Federal Aviation Administration. The airline inspected and put 18 of the planes back online Saturday, a day after part of the fuselage blew out during one of its flights over Oregon. But the FAA issued a notice that the planes might require more work, the AP reports. "These aircraft have now also been pulled from service until details about possible additional maintenance work are confirmed with the FAA," the airline said in a statement Sunday. Other developments involve:

  • The missing piece: The FAA has asked for the public's help locating the "plug door" and other pieces that fell off the plane Friday, per CNN. Radar data indicates they fell in Washington County, about seven miles west of Portland, near Barnes Road and Highway 217. Jennifer Homendy, National Transportation Safety Board chair, said the door could help investigators understand the cause of the problem. "If it's sitting in somebody's backyard, I would like to see it," she said.
  • Close calls: No one was sitting in the two seats next to the door, 26A and 26B. Homendy said the back of the seat on 26A and the headrests on 25A and 26A disappeared in the sudden depressurization. The door blew out before the plane reached cruising altitude, so passengers weren't walking about the cabin. "A mist or cloud whooshed past me that kind of hit me in the face," said a passenger who was a few rows away, per CNN. "There were people much closer who I spoke with who lost AirPods out of their ears." The plane landed safely in Portland after cutting the trip short.
  • Travel plans: United, which had about 8,000 flights scheduled with the MAX 9 this month, canceled 270 of them over the weekend, per the Wall Street Journal. Alaska, the second-heaviest user, had about 5,000. The airlines said they'll contact passengers whose upcoming flights may be affected by the fleet's grounding. The usual offer is another itinerary or a refund. Alaska said its Seattle to Houston flights in time for Monday's college football national championship game between the University of Washington and the University of Michigan were still on.
(More Alaska Airlines stories.)

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