United Airlines has grounded its Boeing 737-9 jets and thus suspended flights with the variant under the spotlight.
A Major Grounding
The grounding by United Airlines has been labelled as temporary. However, it has seen all 79 delivered Boeing 737-9s pulled from service as part of a thorough review.
Included in this review are inspections required by the Federal Aviation Administration following their issuing of an Emergency Airworthiness Directive.
United Airlines’ last update noted that 33 of the 79 aircraft had already received the necessary inspections, which the FAA says should take around 4 to 8 hours.
Per a United Airlines statement, the airline is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to seek clarity on the inspection process and the requirements to return the 737-9 to service safely.
For passengers slated to be impacted on flights operated by the United Airlines 737-9, the carrier will attempt to limit the impact by rebooking those affected onto other services.
Following the FAA mandate, the airline said it had cancelled around 60 flights, equating to 1% of its daily operations. However, this is expected to grow.
Like many others, the airline has also clarified that the inspections and grounding are currently for the 737-9, not any other variant of the MAX family.
The FAA Emergency Airworthiness Directive
A decision to temporarily suspend operations with the Boeing 737-9 also comes following the Federal Aviation Administration issuing an Emergency Airworthiness Directive.
The AD covers a total of 171 aircraft right around the world and also applies to the countless 737-9s flying in the United States with Alaska Airlines and United Airlines.
The Federal Aviation Administration says that its priority rests with the safety of those who will board future 737-9s. As a result, assurances need to be made that the aircraft is safe to renter service.
Currently, customers worldwide lack the necessary clarification surrounding the inspections as an investigation continues.
The NTSB held a press conference in the late hours of Saturday, 6 January 2024, with their chair making a plea towards the public to find the missing door of the aircraft that blew out of an Alaska Airlines 737-9. This blowout sparked the grounding; however, an airworthiness directive further increased the concerns.
Bad Timing For Boeing
Incidents like those on the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX are never ideal. However, this is not the best of times for the American plane maker.
Boeing is currently attempting to certify the two remaining variants of the 737 MAX series, the 737-7 and 737-10, which have both encountered substantial delays.
The certification process has become much tighter following the 737 MAX crisis and findings related to that process and quality assurance. As a result, Boeing has battled to get the remaining variants approved.
While the initial indication relates the incident to a feature on the 737-9, it again puts Boeing in the spotlight for the wrong reasons and delays the company’s focus. For Boeing, they would’ve been targeting a smooth 2024 as it continues to rebuild. However, one week in, it has been anything but that.