In the wake of a door-plug blowout incident on a Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft on Jan. 5, the Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday issued an additional safety alert, urging airlines to inspect the door plugs on certain older Boeing 737 models that share a similar design.
The 170 Boeing 737-9 MAX planes have been grounded by the FAA until inspections on bolts are completed. No similar grounding has been announced on the Boeing 737-900ER, the model that the FAA wants inspected.
According to the FAA, the Boeing 737-900ER door plugs are identical in design to those found on the 9 MAX, and some airlines have reported “findings” related to the bolts during maintenance inspections.
Door plugs are panels that seal holes on aircraft where additional doors are not required due to the number of seats. They can be converted into exits if more seats are installed on the plane. The Boeing 737-900ER is not part of the newer MAX fleet but has the same door plug design, dependent on four bolts.
The FAA said “operators are encouraged to conduct a visual inspection to ensure the door plug is restrained from any movements through the two (2) upper guide track bolts and two (2) lower arrestor bolts.”
Alaska Airlines said its maintenance and engineering technicians completed preliminary inspections of a group of its 737-9 MAX aircraft as ordered by the FAA.
“We provided the data to Boeing, which will share it with the FAA for further analysis and consultation. We’re awaiting the next steps based on this collection of new information, including the final inspection orders so we can begin safely returning our planes to service,” the airlines said.
The ongoing grounding of the 737-9 MAX continues to impact Alaska Airlines operations with all 65 of its 737-9 MAX still out of service. The airlines has 231 of Boeing 737 aircraft.
“This remains a dynamic situation and we greatly appreciate the patience of our guests. We are notifying those whose flights are canceled and working to reaccommodate them. We also have a Flexible Travel Policy in effect,” the airline said.