Copa Airlines, an operator currently of the in spotlight Boeing 737-9, has followed the mandates to ground the type in the United States by pulling their units from service as a response.
The carrier operates with a fleet of 21 737-9s and says it’ll suspend service with these aircraft until they undergo the required technical inspections and can be re-approved.
Copa expects that with the necessary technical inspections and experts working closely, they can return the types to flying within the next 24 hours. The primary mission is to ensure the safety of those onboard, with secondly the goal of minimising the overall impact on customers with cancelled services.
Deja Vu For The 737 MAX
Airlines beginning to ground their 737 MAXs will, for most, provide a sense of Deja Vu back to 2019 when, in March, carriers mass-grounded the type following the events of ET302.
In this sense, the grounding has primarily been spurred by the Alaska Airlines incident and a recent Airworthiness Directive issued against the 737 MAX by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA said in their Emergency AD that they were issuing such a statement because they believed there to be an unsafe condition involving the aircraft likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design.
Further flights of the affected aeroplanes have been prohibited according to the FAA until the aircraft type can be inspected and applicable corrective actions can be performed.
The FAA noted that the order applies to 171 aircraft worldwide with a mid-cabin door plug installed. However, there are 215 in-service 737-9s, as not all the active variants have the said feature.
Boeing said in a statement that it is currently working with all relevant parties and supporting the ongoing investigation by the NTSB to determine what occurred.
U.S. Carriers Forced To Ground The Aircraft
Alaska Airlines voluntarily grounded their 737-9s temporarily before the Emergency Airworthiness Directive was issued. However, the airline had initially said it’d return the aircraft to service following inspections.
The carrier said that 18 of their 737-9s received in-depth inspections and continued in service. However, following the EAD, these aircraft were pulled from operations until additional details could be clarified to the company.
Alaska Airlines, among other impacted companies, are attempting to understand the issue better and determine if further work must be required before the planes are cleared to fly.
The Alaska Airlines Incident
Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 was operating a scheduled service between Portland and Ontario on January 6, 2024, before it experienced what was initially labelled as a pressurisation issue. As a result, the Boeing 737-9 aircraft was forced to return to Portland.
Per Flightradar24 data, the 737-9 struggled to reach 16,000 feet before it returned. The pressurisation issue stemmed directly from the rear mid-cabin exit door blowing out. This is supposed to be sealed before delivery if a customer doesn’t opt for the extra exit door.
As a result, this exit door doesn’t look to the naked eye and, at a glance, like it was intended. This is thanks to the sealing before customer handover.