Alaska Airlines resumed flying its grounded Boeing 737-9 MAX airplanes on Friday, just a few weeks after a terrifying in-flight incident caused one of its flights to perform an emergency landing.
Earlier this month, a plug door panel on an Alaska Airlines flight headed to California from Oregon blew out mid-flight, causing the oxygen masks to deploy. As a result, all Boeing 737-9 MAX planes were grounded for further quality control inspections.
Last week, Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci shared with NBC News that the company found “some loose bolts on many of our MAX 9s.” United Airlines also reported finding loose bolts on some of its planes.
Despite the alarming discoveries, on Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration cleared a path for the grounded planes to resume operations following the completion of its inspection and maintenance process. The agency also announced that it would not approve the production expansion of Boeing’s MAX aircraft. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker called the agency’s enhanced review of the aircraft “exhaustive.”
According to a recent letter from Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Stan Deal, United Airlines, Aeromexico, and Turkish Airlines plan to resume flying their MAX 9 airplanes shortly as well.
“Our long-term focus is on improving our quality so that we can regain the confidence of our customers, our regulator and the flying public. Frankly, we have disappointed and let them down,” Deal said. “We are deeply sorry for the significant disruption and frustration of our customers, some of whom have been publicly and unfairly criticized. We have heard from our regulator, which has announced it won’t allow 737 MAX production increases until they are satisfied we have improved our quality control. We own these issues and will make them right.”
“Over the last century, the people of Boeing have faced and overcome significant challenges. This is one of those times,” he continued. “We have to be better. We have to deliver perfect airplanes each and every time.”
Alaska Airlines plans to complete an inspection of its 65 MAX 9 planes and allow the aircraft to resume operations by the end of next week, Fox Business reported.
“Each of our 737-9 MAX will return to service only after the rigorous inspections are completed and each plane is deemed airworthy according to FAA requirements,” Alaska Airlines stated. “The individual inspections are expected to take up to 12 hours per aircraft.”
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