The Federal Aviation Administration has advised carriers to check an older version of the 737 that employs similar door plugs to the grounded MAX 9
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Boeing shares dipped slightly in early trading on Monday following an advisory issued by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that airlines inspect an older version of the Boeing 737 due to concerns over mid-exit door plugs. This follows a recent incident involving an Alaska Airlines flight where a door detached mid-air.
The FAA’s statement, called a ‘Safety Alert for Operators’, advocates visual inspections of the door plugs on Boeing 737-900ER aircraft for an “added layer of safety.” The 737-900ER, an older aircraft that does not belong to the MAX family, boasts 505 units in service both in the US and abroad, according to Boeing’s data, although it is primarily used by domestic carriers United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Delta Air Lines.
The FAA’s recommendation that the door plugs on Boeing 737-900ER jets be looked at was prompted by reports of unspecified bolt issues that had arisen during additional inspections conducted by some airlines in the wake of the MAX 9 incident.
Airlines are urged to promptly execute key portions of a fuselage plug assembly maintenance procedure related to the four bolts that secure the door plug to the airframe.
Boeing’s shares saw a 0.5% decline in early trading on Monday, contributing to a 17.5% drop since the start of the year. Although not part of the newer MAX fleet, the 737-900ER shares the same door plug design that enables the addition of an extra emergency exit door for increased seating.
A spokesman for Boeing expressed full support for the FAA’s action. The 737-900ER, introduced in 2007, has accumulated over 11 million hours of operation and 3.9 million flight cycles without issues related to the door plug, according to the FAA.
Meanwhile, the FAA has stated that MAX 9 aircraft will remain grounded until deemed safe for service. United extended the cancellation of MAX 9 flights through January 26, while Alaska Airlines, for which MAX 9’s constitute 20% of its fleet, is yet to confirm the duration of cancellations.
United, which operates 136 of the 737-900ER aircraft that are subject to the latest advisory, does not expect the inspections to result in disruptions to service. Alaska Airlines, which has already been carrying out such inspections for several days, has reported no findings.
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