Alaska Airlines 737 Max Accident Causes 100s of Cancellations

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Photo by Byeonghoon Jeon on Unsplash.

A blown-out “door plug” on an Alaska Airlines flight led the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to temporarily ground 171 Boeing 737-MAX 9 aircraft, which in turn caused Alaska Airlines and Spirit Air—both of which operate the passenger jet—to cancel hundreds of flights this week.

A section of fuselage ripped away on a Jan. 5 Alaska Airlines flight from Portland, Ore., to Ontario, Calif., when the door plug—a section of fuselage that takes the place of an unneeded emergency exit—failed mid-flight. The hole in the plane exposed passengers to wind and noise, but the plane was able to make an emergency landing, and nobody was seriously injured.

The next day, the FAA issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive ordering the temporary grounding of 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory. “The FAA is requiring immediate inspections of certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes before they can return to flight,” said FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker.

Alaska Airlines’ Response

Alaska Airlines, which operates 65 737 MAX 9 aircraft, subsequently canceled 170 flights on Sunday and 60 more flights on Monday, saying the grounding “has significantly impacted our operation” and adding, “Cancellations will continue through the first half of the week,” according to a statement from the airline.

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said in a statement that each aircraft will be returned to service after completing FAA-required maintenance. “We anticipate all inspections will be completed in the next few days,” he said.

United Airlines, which operates 78 of the aircraft, had canceled another 222 flights through Monday, the New York Times reported.

Aeromexico and Copa Airlines are other major operators of the 737 MAX 9. The MAX series, rolled out in 2016, is the fourth generation of Boeing’s narrow-bodied 737 jetliner. The series currently includes four variants, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

Only the “9” series is affected by the current grounding; however, the entire 737 MAX series was ordered parked worldwide from March 2019 to November 2020 after a pair of catastrophic crashes were linked to the failure of the onboard MCAS flight stabilization system.

Separately, the National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the cause of the Jan. 5 incident.

This post first appeared on Prevue’s sister publication’s site,

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