FAA orders grounding of Boeing 737 MAX 9 fleet after in-flight incident

AviationUpdatesPH.com – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. civil aviation authority, issued a grounding order for all 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft globally on Saturday, January 6.

The door plug installed at the rear of the fuselage blew out during climb. Photo by KATU via KTVL.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker stated, "The FAA is requiring immediate inspections of certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes before they can return to flight. Safety will continue to drive our decision-making as we assist the NTSB’s investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282."

The FAA dispatched an Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD) to all 737 MAX 9 operators, barring the operation of the aircraft until they pass inspections and implement necessary corrections.

The EAD states, "The FAA is issuing this AD because the agency has determined the unsafe condition described previously is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design."

This decision follows an incident involving Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on January 5. The flight, operated by N704AL, experienced an uncontrolled decompression when a mid-cabin door plug blew out in-flight while ascending to approximately 16,000 feet.

Photo via The Australian.

Following the decompression, the crew declared an emergency and executed an emergency descent to 10,000 feet. The aircraft returned to Portland International Airport (PDX) in Oregon, landing safely 20 minutes post-departure.

All 171 passengers and six crew members disembarked without incident.

The two-month-old aircraft, configured with low-density seating, has optional over-wing emergency exits. Alaska Airlines chose to seal these emergency exits with a window panel.

In response to the incident, Alaska Airlines voluntarily grounded 65 of its Boeing 737 MAX 9 fleet for comprehensive maintenance checks before the FAA's EAD was released. This preemptive action led to the cancellation of 160 flights, impacting over 23,000 passengers.

The Seattle-headquartered airline said: "Eighteen of Alaska’s 737-9 MAX aircraft received in-depth inspections as part of heavy maintenance checks and continued in service today until we received the FAA’s EAD. These aircraft have now also been pulled from service until details about possible additional maintenance work are confirmed with the FAA. We are in touch with the FAA to determine what, if any, further work is required before these aircraft are returned to service."