In a recent incident, a piece of fuselage tore off the left side of an Alaska Airlines-operated Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft, leading to an emergency landing after the cabin depressurized. The plane was flying from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California when the incident occurred at an altitude of 16,000 feet. The pilot immediately signaled the need for a landing, and the plane safely returned to Portland with all passengers and crew members unharmed. However, some passengers did experience minor injuries that required medical attention.
As a result of this incident, federal aviation regulators have grounded certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 jets for further inspection. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a directive requiring safety inspections of all 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft operating worldwide. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has also dispatched a team of experts to investigate the incident.
The Boeing 737 MAX 9 is Boeing's largest single-aisle plane and can seat up to 220 people. Some variations of this aircraft include an optional extra door or a panel that serves as a plug for an emergency exit door. The panel is used when carriers choose to install the maximum number of seats on the plane and need to meet the required number of evacuation paths.
Boeing has delivered over 200 Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes, of which 171 have the door plug panel instead of an emergency door. U.S. air carriers that use the panel on their 737 MAX 9 planes are Alaska and United. Both airlines have grounded some of their planes for inspection, leading to flight cancellations.
The cause of the incident is currently under investigation, and Boeing has expressed its support for the FAA's decision to require immediate inspections. The NTSB has referred to the incident as an accident, not an incident, and has emphasized the importance of the fortunate outcome considering the potential for a more tragic event. The missing door is still being sought, and the public's help has been requested in locating it.
Overall, this incident and the subsequent grounding of Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes for inspection highlight the importance of safety in aviation and the collaborative efforts of regulatory bodies, manufacturers, and airlines to ensure the well-being of passengers.