United Airlines Finds Loose Bolts On Boeing 737-9s

Daniel Fowkes
09 Jan 2024
· Aircraft 
· Airlines 
United Airlines has confirmed it has found loose bolts on several Boeing 737-9s that are grounded following inspections of the grounded aircraft. A total of 79 Boeing 737-9s with United Airlines remain parked as the airline battles with airworthiness directives and safety concerns.

United Airlines has confirmed, as reported by The Air Current, that it has come across loose bolts and general installation issues on Boeing 737-9s.

The carrier says that, for example, some of the installation issues relate to bolts that need additional tightening, which has been the subject following the incident that occurred.

Based on the initial findings by United, as it conducts inspections, it’ll remedy these with the Tech Ops team taking the complete focus so the aircraft can safely return to service.

United hasn’t confirmed the number of units found to have bolts loose; however, The Air Current reported that one person familiar with the matter said this had been found in at least five aircraft.

The major U.S. airline has 79 Boeing 737-9s, all of which have been parked so inspections can occur following the Alaska Airlines incident that sparked the grounding. The carrier is also the largest Boeing 737-9 operator globally.

Edward Russell posted on X an image of the door plug lower hinge bracket that highlights screws that are not screwed in all the way.

While Boeing remains a significant focal point for the investigation among onlookers’ attention, Spirit AeroSystems plays another crucial role in supplying the parts, with Boeing overseeing the vital quality checks. Not for the first time, this joint responsibility has resulted in quality assurance problems coming to light.

Progress On Re-Entry To Service

Hours before the finding by United Airlines, Boeing announced that it had issued instructions to airlines around the world so they could conduct inspections on their 737-9s.

However, United Airlines had made it publicly known that they were already conducting preliminary inspection work while they awaited further instructions from Boeing and the FAA.

The instructions were issued via a Multi-Operator message. Despite this, the planes will remain grounded until airlines can complete their inspections and any corrective action based on the findings, which could delay or speed up the re-entry into service.

However, based on the newest findings by United Airlines, the problem with the door plugs and loose bolts may be more widespread than first imagined. As a result, the incident involving the Alaska Airlines 737-9 was a warning sign of potentially what was always in the pipeline.

The NTSB praised the crew aboard the Alaska flight, noting how lucky all those onboard were that the blowout occurred shortly after departure and not at maximum altitude.

Loose Bolts Reported In late 2023

Towards late 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration said it was closely monitoring the 737 MAX following checks for loose bolts, this time in the rudder control system.

The aircraft types were inspected following an airline outside of the United States discovering a bolt with a missing nut during a scheduled maintenance event. Boeing found an improperly tightened nut on an aircraft that had yet to be delivered.

At this time, Boeing said the inspections would allow the planes to continue flying, taking only a couple of hours at a time.

While these developments occurred only days before the Alaska Airlines incident and involved the rudder control system, they do highlight further loose or missing bolts among the issues plaguing the 737 MAX series and Boeing.

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