(CTN News) – Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliners are flying passengers in the United States for the first flight since they were grounded after one of the planes’ side panels blew apart.
Alaska Airlines restarted a limited number of flights with its Max 9 aircraft on Friday. United plans to follow suit on Sunday, but a spokesman said the planes might be used as spares on Friday or Saturday.
These are the only two American airlines that fly this variant of the Boeing 737.
After witnessing a video of a terrifying flight of a jet with a large hole in its side, passengers may have legitimate concerns about safety.
The Federal Aviation Administration has specified the procedure that airlines must use to inspect — and, if required, fix — the panels known as door plugs, one of which came away on Alaska Airlines flight 1282 on January 5. The plugs are used to close holes left for extra doors on the Max 9 when an abnormally large number of seats necessitates additional exits for safety reasons.
FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker says his agency’s examination of everything that has happened since the accident, including information gathered on door plug inspections on 40 additional planes, gives him confidence that they will be safe as long as the new inspection process is used.
Alaska Airlines grounded all 65 of its Max 9 planes within hours of one of the two-door plugs in the back portion of flight 1282 blowing away at 16,000 feet above Oregon. The FAA grounded all Max 9s in the United States the day following the blowout.
Even though none of the passengers were gravely harmed, authorities acted fast because the situation could have been far worse.
Fortunately, the two seats closest to the panel that blew off the plane were unoccupied as flight 1282 took off from Portland, Oregon. And the plane hadn’t yet reached cruising altitude of more than 30,000 feet, so passengers and flight attendants may have been wandering around rather than being buckled into their seats.
Airlines discovered difficulties on other aircraft. Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci told NBC this week that “many” of the planes they inspected had unsecured bolts that were supposed to hold the door plug to the jet’s airframe. United Airlines reported similar findings.
The FAA requires airlines to do “detailed visual inspections” of door plugs and other components, adjust fasteners, and repair any damage discovered before resuming service with Max 9s. According to the organisation, the process was designed based on lessons gathered from inspecting 40 grounded planes.
United said the operation entails removing an interior panel, two rows of seats, and a sidewall liner from the cabin. Technicians open the door plug, inspect it and the surrounding hardware, and correct any issues before resecuring the panel.
Alaska Airlines officials said Thursday that they had lost a few sales from clients who have booked trips until February, a practice known as “booking away” in the airline industry. They would not reveal how many people had booked away from the Max 9, but they expected it to last only a few weeks.
Alaska CEO Minicucci stated that “at first, people will have some questions, some anxiety,” but that “over time” faith in the plane’s safety will be restored.
Travellers returned to the Boeing 737 Max 8, which crashed twice between 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people. In that case, Boeing had to modify an automated flight-control system before the FAA allowed Max 8s and Max 9s to fly again after a 20-month grounding.
Most individuals don’t bother looking up the sort of plane they’re scheduled to fly, though there was an increase after flight 1282. Scott Keyes, publisher of the travel website Going, believes that if the FAA clears the planes to fly — presuming there are no further accidents — the public’s memories will quickly fade.
Airline websites now often provide the type of aircraft that will be utilised on a specific flight, however locating the information varies.
On American Airlines’ website, the kind of plane appears directly on the search results page. On the US and Alaska sites, however, you will need to do one additional step: Click “details.” To see the aircraft type on Southwest Airlines, click on the flight number, which is shown in blue.
According to U.S. Department of Transportation estimates, it is far safer than driving and even safer than rail travel per mile.
Airline authorities and aviation regulators like to remind out that there hasn’t been a fatal disaster involving a US airliner since 2009. However, over the last year, there has been a significant spike in close calls being probed by federal officials.
The FAA is investigating whether Boeing and its suppliers followed necessary safety standards when constructing the part that blew off the Alaska plane. This could lead to sanctions.
Furthermore, the FAA has stated that it will not allow Boeing to expand Max jet manufacturing until it is convinced that the company’s quality-control concerns have been addressed.
Rival Airbus has surged ahead of Boeing, outselling the American business in both orders and deliveries of new passenger jets last year. Boeing’s current dilemma has the potential to exacerbate matters. United CEO Scott Kirby said the airline would look into alternatives to the impending Max 10 due to uncertainties over when and whether the FAA will certify the plane, which is already years behind schedule.