U.S.

FAA increasing oversight of Boeing following mid-air scare

All 171 Boeing Max 9 jets in circulation have been grounded pending an investigation after a door plug blew out from the side of a cabin mid-flight.

A door plug area of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft awaiting inspection is pictured with paneling removed.
A door plug area of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft awaiting inspection is pictured with paneling removed.
Lindsey Wasson
SMS

The Federal Aviation Administration announced it is increasing its oversight of Boeing production and manufacturing amid concerns that its Max 9 aircraft line is unsafe. 

Those concerns were raised after Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 had a refrigerator-size hole open shortly after takeoff on Jan. 5 when a door plug blew out from the side of the cabin. 

Last week's incident prompted Alaska Airlines and United Airlines to say they were grounding all Boeing Max 9 airplanes until further notice. Airline safety inspections have fueled the concern.

"Since we began our preliminary inspections on Saturday, we have found instances that appear to relate to installation issues in the door plug — for example, bolts that need additional tightening," United Airlines said earlier this week. 

FAA to investigate Boeing following Alaska Airlines incident
FAA to investigate Boeing following Alaska Airlines incident

FAA to investigate Boeing following Alaska Airlines incident

Max 9 jets, including 65 with Alaska Airlines and 79 with United, remain grounded. The FAA ruled out any change pending further investigation.

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The FAA said on Friday that it is auditing the Max 9 production line and its suppliers to "evaluate Boeing’s compliance with its approved quality procedures." 

The announcement comes a day after the FAA said it was launching an investigation to determine if Boeing failed to ensure that its completed aircraft conformed to its approved design and were in compliance with FAA regulations. 

"It is time to re-examine the delegation of authority and assess any associated safety risks," FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said. "The grounding of the 737-9 and the multiple production-related issues identified in recent years require us to look at every option to reduce risk. The FAA is exploring the use of an independent third party to oversee Boeing’s inspections and its quality system."

Alaska Airlines offers passengers $1,500 after door detaches midflight
Alaska Airlines offers passengers $1,500 after door detaches midflight

Alaska Airlines offers passengers $1,500 after door detaches midflight

Some are questioning whether the compensation is enough as passengers aboard the plane feared they were going to die.

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The FAA added, "The safety of the flying public, not speed, will determine the timeline for returning the Boeing 737-9 MAX to service."

The door plug fell from the plane and was later discovered in an Oregon resident's backyard. Federal officials have been conducting an investigation into what caused the door plug to burst out of the plane. 

Officials have questioned whether four bolts were installed to properly secure the door plug.

Approximately 171 Boeing Max 9 jets were produced.