The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recommended visual inspections of Boeing
737-900ER mid-exit door plugs, expanding the scope of the investigation after the mid-flight incident on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.
FAA Now Recommends Visual Inspections Of Boeing 737-900ER
On January 5, 2024, AS1282, a Boeing 737 MAX 9 (737-9) suffered a mishap shortly after takeoff. A “plugged” rear mid-cabin emergency exit door on an Alaska Airlines 737-9 MAX (essentially, part of the fuselage) separated from the aircraft minutes after takeoff, triggering a rapid decompression event. An emergency was declared and the aircraft returned to Portland. No injuries were reported.
Responding to that incident, the FAA grounded all 737 MAX 9 aircraft in the USA. Inspections have been performed and airlines are awaiting further instructions on restoring these aircraft to commercial service (Alaska Airlines and United Airlines operate these aircraft).
It was pointed out almost from the start that the 737-900 is the generational forerunner to the 737 MAX 9 and had the same “plugged” mid-exit doors. Now the FAA is recommending, though not requiring, that airlines visually inspect this aircraft type as well:
As an added layer of safety, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is recommending that operators of Boeing 737-900ER aircraft visually inspect mid-exit door plugs to ensure the door is properly secured. The Boeing 737-900ER is not part of the newer MAX fleet but has the same door plug design.
This recommendation impacts three carriers, that operate the following 737-900ER jets:
- Alaska Airlines – 79
- Delta Air Lines – 163
- United Airlines – 136
Alaska and United have signaled that inspections will voluntarily proceed, but these aircraft will not be removed from service pending inspections. These aircraft date back to 2007 and the plugged mid-exit doors have never been an issue.
It is interesting that if these aircraft types share a potential common hazard, only one is grounded. On the other hand, 15 years without an incident suggests that grounding hundreds of more aircraft might be overkill.
The FAA has recommended the visual inspection of 737-900ER jets, noting that as the forerunner to the 737 MAX 9 they share common features like mid-exit door plugs that may be susceptible to the same issues that have been unearthed on the MAX 9.
It will be interesting to see if Alaska, Delta, or United find any loose bolts or other abnormalities…