In a surprising move, following the MAX 9 plug door blowout incident and subsequent grounding, the FAA has now halted any further MAX production expansion by Boeing whilst it investigates the aircraft’s safety.
This announcement follows the FAA’s investigation of Boeing and its suppliers, which was posted on Friday 12 January.
However, there is a spot of good news for operators amidst this investigation. In this latest post, the FAA also ruled that the jets will be allowed to return to service once a thorough inspection and maintenance process has been conducted on the 171 grounded Boeing MAX 9 aircraft.
A mixed return
Despite this silver lining, the groundings have led to frustration for the passengers and CEOs of the affected airlines.
In a conversation with NBC News, Alaska Airlines’ CEO, Ben Minicucci, stated that he was “more than frustrated and disappointed” but “angry” at the incident.
Ongoing inspections of Alaska Airlines’ aircraft have turned up “many” loose bolts, and since the incident, the airline has had to ground 65 of its 737-9 MAX aircraft.
In a released statement on 25 January, the airline revealed that the first of its grounded aircraft is due to be back in the air on Friday (26 January), with inspections on all jets to be “completed over the next week”. Any mention of Boeing in this recent statement is notably absent but includes praise for the “FAA’s diligence and commitment to safety”.
As reported on CNBC’s Squawk Box, United Airlines is now also reconsidering adding the MAX 10 to its fleet plans, according to its CEO Scott Kirby.
The grounding of the MAX 9 was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, as the CEO also expressed frustration at the delays on the MAX 10 aircraft and the ongoing production issues. It has currently all 79 of its MAX 9 jets grounded.
“I have a lot of confidence in the people of Boeing. There’s great mechanics, great engineers, a great storied history. But they’ve been having these consistent manufacturing challenges, and they need to take action,” Kirby added.
Image credit: Boeing