FAA Clears B737 MAX 9 to Resume Flights + Airlines Response
FAA Clears B737 MAX 9 to Resume Flights + Airlines Response

FAA Clears B737 MAX 9 to Resume Flights + Airlines Response

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has cleared Boeing 737 MAX 9 jets to resume flying once the outlined inspections and maintenance are completed. United, Alaska Airlines, and Copa Airlines are all preparing to return their grounded jets by this weekend.

However, the FAA has halted the planned production increase of Boeing’s best-selling narrow-body family of jets.

Boeing 737 MAX 9 Inspection Approval

After reviewing data from the inspections of 40 grounded aircraft, the FAA approved a detailed set of inspection and maintenance instructions so that the grounded MAX 9 planes could return to service. The FAA also convened a Corrective Action Review Board (CARB). The CARB, made up of safety experts, scrutinized and approved the inspection and maintenance process.

The enhanced maintenance process will require:

  • An inspection of specific bolts, guide tracks, and fittings
  • Detailed visual inspections of left and right mid-cabin exit door plugs and dozens of associated components
  • Retorquing fasteners
  • Correcting any damage or abnormal conditions
Who is Flying the Boeing 737 MAX?
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9

Following the completion of the enhanced maintenance and inspection process, the door plugs on the 737 MAX 9 will comply with the original design. The grounded aircraft will not return to service until the process is complete and compliance with the original design is confirmed.

This decision comes nearly three weeks after a plugged emergency exit door blew out on an Alaska Airlines MAX 9. Following this incident, the FAA grounded all 171 planes in the US fleet causing widespread flight disruptions.

“We grounded the Boeing 737-9 MAX within hours of the incident over Portland and made clear this aircraft would not go back into service until it was safe. The exhaustive, enhanced review our team completed after several weeks of information gathering gives me and the FAA confidence to proceed to the inspection and maintenance phase.”

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker
737 MAX Electrical Flaw
United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9

Airlines Response

Alaska Airlines said that it expects the inspections to take 12 hours and its first B737 MAX 9 will return to service on Friday. The carrier further stated that the inspection of its entire MAX 9 fleet would be completed by next week.

At the request of the FAA, Alaska Airlines completed preliminary inspections on 20 of its 737 MAX 9 aircraft two weeks ago. As a result of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 groundings, the carrier has estimated that its full-year results in 2024 would be impacted by $150 million.

“With the first of our 737-9 MAX set to resume flying on Friday, we’ll add more planes back into service every day as inspections are completed and each aircraft is deemed airworthy. We expect inspections on all our 737-9 MAX to be completed over the next week.  “

Alaska Airlines Spokesperson

United Airlines has announced that it anticipates resuming MAX 9 flights on Sunday, January 28th, following the inspection procedures. Since January 13, United has completed the inspection of 26 planes as per the FAA’s guidance.

“Our entire Tech Ops team has rallied to get this done and have been on this from day one, and they have more work to do in the days ahead. Please join me in thanking them for everything they are doing to safely return the MAX 9 to service.”

United Airlines Executive Vice President and COO, Toby Enqvist
a letter to a flight attendant

Copa Airlines will be gradually reactivating its MAX 9 jets, starting today, January 25th. The South American carrier has stated that its entire fleet of MAX 9 jets will return to service by Sunday, January 28th.

FAA Halts Boeing 737 MAX Production Expansion

While airlines could return their MAX 9 jets to service, Boeing faces a setback with the FAA’s decision to halt the planned production increase for the entire 737 MAX family. The regulator has laid out a series of actions to increase oversight of Boeing’s production lines.

“The quality assurance issues we have seen are unacceptable. That is why we will have more boots on the ground closely scrutinizing and monitoring production and manufacturing activities.”

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker
Extend 737 MAX cancellation
FAA Halts Boeing 737 MAX Production Expansion

Increased oversight activities will include the following:

  • Capping expanded production of new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to ensure accountability and full compliance with required quality control procedures.
  • Launching an investigation scrutinizing Boeing’s compliance with manufacturing requirements. The FAA will use the full extent of its enforcement authority to ensure the company is held accountable for any non-compliance.
  • Aggressively expanding oversight of new aircraft with increased floor presence at all Boeing facilities.
  • Closely monitoring data to identify risk
  • Launching an analysis of potential safety-focused reforms around quality control and delegation.

The FAA further stated that it will continue to support the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.