FAA grounds 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered the temporary grounding of 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory, following an incident aboard an Alaska Airlines flight on Jan. 5.

“The FAA is requiring immediate inspections of certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes before they can return to flight,” FAA administrator Mike Whitaker said. “Safety will continue to drive our decision-making as we assist the NTSB’s investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.

Although transport Canada has confirmed that there are no Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes in use by Canadian operators, this decision currently affects 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes, which will remain grounded until deemed safe to fly by the FAA.

What happened?

On Jan. 5, Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 departed from Portland, Oregon, heading to Ontario, California. Shortly after takeoff, a portion of the plane blew off, resulting in a large gap in the plane body, leaving passengers and crew exposed to the elements.

While no injuries were reported, the plane made an emergency landing at Portland International Airport on Friday evening.

As of Jan. 7, Alaska Airlines cancelled 170 of its flights that were scheduled for Sunday, as well as another 60 planned for today (Jan. 8).

“Cancellations will continue through the first half of the week, and we encourage guests with travel plans to continue to check their email and alaskaair.com for updates,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement. “While we await the airworthiness directive (AD) inspection criteria from the FAA and Boeing, our maintenance teams are prepared and ready to perform the required inspections of the mid exit door plugs on our 737-9 MAX fleet.”

“Safety is our top priority and we deeply regret the impact this event has had on our customers and their passengers. We agree with and fully support the FAA’s decision to require immediate inspections of 737-9 airplanes with the same configuration as the affected airplane,” Boeing said in a statement on Jan. 6. “In addition, a Boeing technical team is supporting the NTSB’s investigation into the Jan. 5 accident. We will remain in close contact with our regulator and customers.”