Alaska Airlines to widen quality checks on Boeing 737 Max 9 planes

The carrier has begun preliminary production line inspections on up to 20 of the aircraft

The fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 Max, which was forced to make an emergency landing after a blowout shortly after take-off from Portland, Oregon. Reuters
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Alaska Airlines will expand the quality checks on its planes on the Boeing 737 production line beginning this week, in addition to the US aviation regulator's review and supervision of safety processes, after a cabin panel broke off one of its 737 Max 9 jets in mid-flight this month.

The airline had a “candid conversation” with Boeing’s chief executive and leadership team to discuss the plane maker's improvement plans for Alaska Airlines aircraft, it said on its website on Saturday.

“Our quality and audit team began a thorough review of Boeing’s production quality and control systems, including Boeing’s production vendor oversight, and will partner with our maintenance team on the design of enhanced processes for our own quality control over aircraft at Boeing,” the airline said.

“Starting this week, we will also enhance our own quality oversight of Alaska aircraft on the Boeing production line, expanding our team with additional experienced professionals to validate work and quality on the Boeing 737 production line,” the airline said.

On January 5, Alaska Airlines temporarily grounded its fleet of 65 Boeing 737 Max 9s after a door plug detached during Flight 1282, shortly after take-off from Portland, Oregon. The grounding of the model has caused “significant disruption” to operations, resulting in hundreds of flight cancellations and delays, the airline said.

On January 6, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded about 171 Boeing 737-9 Max planes after the incident.

The agency also launched an investigation to determine if Boeing failed to ensure completed products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation in compliance with FAA regulations. The FAA also increased its supervision of Boeing production and manufacturing.

On January 12, the FAA said it indefinitely extended the grounded status of Boeing 737-9 Max aircraft.

Boeing said it will “co-operate fully and transparently” with the regulator. The company will support “all actions that strengthen quality and safety and we are taking actions across our production system,” it said in a statement.

Watch: Alaska Airlines grounds Boeing 737 MAX 9 for checks after emergency landing

Alaska Airlines grounds Boeing 737 MAX 9 for checks after emergency landing

Alaska Airlines grounds Boeing 737 MAX 9 for checks after emergency landing

Preliminary inspections

Alaska Airlines on Saturday said it began preliminary inspections on a group of its 737-9 Max aircraft and that up to 20 of its planes could undergo inspections.

The airline said that the FAA is requiring more data from Boeing before approving the US plane manufacturer’s proposed inspection and maintenance instructions that will be used to conduct final inspections on all 737-9 Max and safely return the planes to service.

The National Transportation Safety Board is taking the lead role in the investigation of the mid-flight incident, with the support of Alaska’s safety and technical teams and Boeing representatives.

The Alaska Airlines incident left a gaping hole in the side of the aircraft's fuselage.

There were 177 people on board the flight, which made an emergency landing when a cabin panel blew out after take-off.

The plane had departed from Portland International Airport in Oregon and was bound for the city of Ontario, east of Los Angeles. The cabin crew reported a pressurisation issue and the flight landed after 20 minutes.

Updated: January 14, 2024, 8:30 AM