Alaska and United could return 737 MAX 9s to skies in coming days

The Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft is set to make a comeback after being grounded due to an incident on an Alaska Airlines flight earlier this month. During the flight, a door plug explosively blew out, causing concern and prompting the grounding of the MAX 9 fleet. However, both Alaska and United Airlines have now received final instructions from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for inspecting their fleets and are planning to return the planes to service.

Alaska Airlines announced on Wednesday that it will conduct detailed inspections of its MAX 9 aircraft and plans to return them to service individually, once each inspection is completed. The inspections involve removing rows of seats, paneling, and opening the door plug itself to check for any problems and make necessary repairs. United Airlines, the largest U.S. operator of the MAX 9, also reported receiving final inspection instructions and expects to begin returning the planes to service soon.

Alaska Airlines estimates that each plane will take around 12 hours to inspect. The carrier hopes to have its first few MAX 9s flying as early as Friday, with the remaining inspections scheduled over the next week. As inspections are completed and each aircraft is deemed airworthy, Alaska plans to return more planes to service each day. The airline currently has 65 MAX 9s in its fleet.

Similarly, United Airlines anticipates returning its MAX 9s to the skies starting on Sunday, following the detailed inspections directed by the FAA. United’s executive vice president and chief operations officer, Toby Enqvist, stated that each aircraft will only be returned to service once the thorough inspection process is complete. United currently operates 79 MAX 9s.

The grounding of the MAX 9 aircraft has resulted in thousands of flight cancellations in the U.S. alone this month. The return of the planes to service may leave some travelers feeling apprehensive. However, FAA administrator Michael Whitaker emphasized that only fully safe aircraft will be allowed to resume commercial service.

Whitaker stated in a social media post that the FAA grounded the Boeing 737-9 MAX and assured that it would not return to flight until it was safe. The enhanced review conducted by the FAA team has given them confidence to proceed with the inspection and maintenance phase before returning to operation. Whitaker’s post on X (formerly Twitter) also mentioned that the FAA will not permit Boeing to expand its production of the 737 MAX until the quality control issues uncovered are resolved.

In response to the incident and subsequent concerns, Boeing has scheduled a series of “quality stand downs” starting on Thursday. During these sessions, employees will pause their work to participate in working sessions focused on quality. The company has faced criticism from regulators, lawmakers, and airlines following the inflight emergency on January 5.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is still investigating the Alaska Flight 1282 incident. It is understandable that the return of the MAX 9 aircraft to service may make travelers wary. However, with the thorough inspections and maintenance procedures being carried out and the assurance of the FAA, it is expected that only safe and airworthy planes will be allowed to fly again.

In conclusion, the Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft is set to return to the skies after being grounded due to a door plug explosively blowing out on an Alaska Airlines flight. Alaska and United Airlines have received final inspection instructions from the FAA and are conducting detailed inspections of their fleets. The return of the MAX 9s to service will be gradual, with each aircraft being inspected and repaired if necessary. The FAA has assured that only fully safe planes will resume commercial service. Boeing is also taking measures to address quality control issues. While the incident may raise concerns, the thorough inspections and maintenance procedures aim to ensure the safety of the aircraft.

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