Airlines resume Boeing 737 MAX 9 flights following maintenance checks

Following the recent Boeing 737 MAX 9 door plug issue, airlines have started to return their affected Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft to service after completing thorough maintenance checks.

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 during engine emissions testing at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington. Photo by Boeing / Addison Salzman, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Copa Airlines of Panama was the first airline to return its affected Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft to the skies. On January 25, Copa Flight 701, operated by HP-9919CMP, departed Panama for Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Alaska Airlines soon followed by returning the affected Boeing 737 MAX to service on January 27, 2023. Alaska Flight 1146 departed Seattle-Tacoma bound for San Diego. The flight was operated by N929AK. Alaska operates 65 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft.

United also followed suit the following day by returning its affected 737 MAX 9 aircraft to service. United Flight 1525, operated by N27503, from Newark to Las Vegas was the first of the 79 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft to be back in operation.

Aeromexico and Turkish Airlines have also started to return their affected 737 MAX 9. on January 28, Aeromexico Flight 534, operated by XA-HSB, departed Mexico City for Cancun while on the following day, Turkish Airlines Flight 2832, operated by TC-LYB, departed Istanbul for Trabzon. 

While not covered by Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD) by FAA,  Lion Air has also returned their Boeing 737 MAX 9 back to service after completing a thorough maintenance inspection.

Days before the return, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provided specific instructions on the required inspections before the affected 737 MAX 9 could resume service.

Alaska Airlines COO Constance von Muehlen sitting beside the door plug. Photo by CNN.

Upon receipt of the instructions from the FAA, Alaska Airlines immediately began the inspection process. They noted that each inspection takes 12 hours to complete.

The FAA had grounded 171 MAX 9 aircraft worldwide after a door plug from an Alaska 737 MAX 9 fell in flight a few minutes after departing from Portland. Alaska Flight 1282 was forced to return and conduct an emergency landing; luckily, no one was seriously injured.

This incident prompted the FAA to issue an Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD) that temporarily barred all Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft from flying, causing numerous flight cancellations and delays.

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It's not back to business as usual

However, in the aftermath of the recent incident involving the 737 MAX, the FAA has disapproved of Boeing’s planned increase in 737 MAX production rates, citing the need for Boeing to "ensure accountability and full compliance with required quality control procedures."

Photo by Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

In a statement, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said:

We will not agree to any request from Boeing for an expansion in production or approve additional production lines for the 737 MAX until we are satisfied that the quality control issues uncovered during this process are resolved.

With these recent developments at Boeing, its shares experienced a 17% drop, reflecting investors' concerns over how the company handles such issues.