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Alaska and United Airlines to Return Boeing 737 MAX 9 to the Air in Coming Days as FAA Ungrounds Troubled Jet

Alaska and United Airlines to Return Boeing 737 MAX 9 to the Air in Coming Days as FAA Ungrounds Troubled Jet

a plane flying in the sky

Alaska and United Airlines have confirmed that they will return their Boeing 737 MAX-9 airplanes to the skies in the coming days after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved an inspection and maintenance protocol for the mid-cabin exit plug.

There are currently 171 grounded MAX-9 jets around the world, but airlines will now be able to press them back into action as soon as they have completed an “enhanced” maintenance and inspection process.

On Wednesday, the FAA approved a set of inspection guidelines designed by Boeing which includes a visual inspection of the bolts that hold the exit plug in place to ensure they have been fitted correctly.

In some cases, airlines will be required to tighten loose bolts and take corrective action for damage or other “abnormal conditions”.

Following the approval of the inspection and maintenance instructions, Alaska Airlines confirmed that it planned to start flying its 737-9s on Friday, January 26.

Alaska said that only one 737-9 would be ready by Friday, but it expects more airplanes to be returned to service every day until the entire fleet is back in operation.

United Airlines will take a little longer to return its 737-9s to service, with the airplanes rejoining the carrier’s schedule on Sunday, January 28.

Wednesday’s good news for Boeing was, however, tempered by an announcement from the FAA that the aircraft manufacturer was being blocked from expanding production of its 737 MAX line until the agency was “satisfied that the quality control issues uncovered during this process are resolved.”

“The quality assurance issues we have seen are unacceptable,” commented FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker. “That is why we will have more boots on the ground closely scrutinizing and monitoring production and manufacturing activities.” 

The FAA plans to put more ‘boots on the ground’ to closely scrutinize Boeing’s quality control procedures on its existing production lines. Boeing will not be allowed to ramp up production of 737 MAX jets until the FAA is satisfied that the jets are being manufactured to spec.

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