The Federal Aviation Administration released final instructions to airlines to begin conducting inspections of their 737 Max 9 planes Wednesday — a move that will eventually allow them to fly again.

The agency had grounded nearly 200 of the planes after an Alaska Airlines flight lost one of its door plugs mid-flight earlier this month.

PHOTO: The fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 Max, which was forced to make an emergency landing, is seen during its investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board in Portland, Ore, Jan. 7, 2024.

The fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 Max, which was forced to make an emergency landing with a gap in the fuselage, is seen during its investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board in Portland, Ore, Jan. 7, 2024.

NTSB/Handout via Reuters, FILE

On Jan. 5, the door plug fell out of the Alaska Airlines plane after it took off for Ontario, California, from Portland. Six crew members and 171 passengers were on board Flight 1282, the airline previously said.

“We grounded the Boeing 737-9 MAX within hours of the incident over Portland and made clear this aircraft would not go back into service until it was safe,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement Wednesday. “The exhaustive, enhanced review our team completed after several weeks of information gathering gives me and the FAA confidence to proceed to the inspection and maintenance phase.”

With this development, airlines could have Max planes back in the air as early as this weekend, however, Whitaker cautions that this does not mean Boeing can return to “business as usual.”

“However, let me be clear: This won’t be back to business as usual for Boeing. We will not agree to any request from Boeing for an expansion in production or approve additional production lines for the 737 MAX until we are satisfied that the quality control issues uncovered during this process are resolved,” Whitaker said.

In a note to employees, United COO Toby Enqvist signaled the company intends to have the Max back in the air on Sunday.

PHOTO: NTSB investigators have recovered the door plug from the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX, flight 1282 that was found in the backyard of a home in Portland, Oregon.

NTSB investigators have recovered the door plug from the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX, flight 1282 that was found in the backyard of a home in Portland, Oregon.

NTSB

According to Wednesday’s press release, the FAA approved its detailed set of inspection and maintenance instructions after a thorough review of data from 40 inspections of grounded planes. The FAA also convened a Corrective Action Review Board. The CARB, made up of safety experts, scrutinized and approved the inspection and maintenance process.

The enhanced maintenance process includes an inspection of specific bolts, guide tracks and fittings, detailed visual inspections of left and right mid-cabin exit door plugs and dozens of associated components, retorquing fasteners and correcting any damage or abnormal conditions.

The news comes on the heels of another airline incident. On Tuesday, the FAA announced it would investigate after a tire under the front nose of a Delta Boeing 757 fell off one of the wheels and rolled down a nearby embankment.

The incident occurred on Saturday around 11:15 a.m. local time at Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport while Delta Flight 982 was taxiing before takeoff to Bogota, Colombia.

No injuries were reported in the incident, the FAA said.

In a statement Tuesday, Delta offered an apology “to our customers for the inconvenience.”



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