In more bad news for Boeing, the recent shock of a midair Boeing Max 9 door blowout during Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 and the ensuing grounding of 170-strong Max 9 fleet has now been followed up by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with a call for visual inspections of an earlier Boeing model too: the 737-900ER.
The FAA safety alert warns carriers of the fact that the Boeing 737-900ER has the same so-called “door plug” design as the grounded craft. The ability to reconfigure the plane to suit different layouts, means a door panel is put in place of a mid-plane exit door.
On 5 January 2024, flight 1282 took off just after 5:00 PM local time from Portland, Oregon, heading to Ontario, California. Just minutes later, the plug door failed. Footage filmed by passengers showed a terrifying gaping hole left in the plane’s fuselage and forced emergency landing took place.
Reminder to keep your seatbelt on at all times when flying.— Zero State Reflex (@ZeroStateReflex) January 6, 2024
737 window piece blew out beginning of flight. Just saw the article. Jfc, imagine that happening at 30k..😬
I think this is that flight… nobody was hurt and landed safely. https://t.co/srDBorVNCV#alaskaairlines pic.twitter.com/1YtFUlX0g7
Remarkably no one was seriously hurt, but the FAA responded with unequivocal statements insisting the “incident should have never happened and it cannot happen again”.
Another FAA investigation
Whistleblowers have accused Boeing and its subcontractors of failing to carry out and even eliminating key safety tests in their “rush” to complete orders for planes, and on 11 January the FAA announced an investigation, to determine “if Boeing failed to ensure completed products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation in compliance with FAA regulations”.
The latest safety warning on the 737-900ER is not a fleet grounding, as the FAA does not apply those to older fleet. But it is another blow to Boeing’s reputation as a manufacturer, as well as its stock value. In total, Boeing shares have shed about 14% since the 5 January blow out; 3% of which happened on Monday when the inspections of the earlier 737 fleet were demanded.
Attempts by Boeing to manage the reputational damage, by applying a policy of “100% and complete transparency every step of the way” have seemingly done little to stem the tide of concern.
Meanwhile Alaska Airlines have attempted to show they are ahead of the curve, responding to the 737-900ER alert by revealing it had already started inspections on that previous model days ago.
Flyers (and investors) will hardly be reassured by Boeing website figures showing that approximately 500 craft have been delivered to carriers including but not limited to Alaska Airlines and Turkish Airlines.