Boeing 737 Safety Concerns: F.A.A. Issues Alert for 737-900ER Door Plug Inspections

In response to ongoing safety concerns, the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) has taken a proactive approach by issuing a safety alert urging airlines to conduct thorough inspections on door plugs of Boeing 737-900ER planes. This directive comes on the heels of heightened scrutiny surrounding Boeing aircraft, with the 737-900ER being the second model under investigation within the same month.

The F.A.A. underscored that the 737-900ER shares a common door plug design with the more contemporary 737 Max 9, the latter having experienced an alarming incident prompting the grounding of approximately 170 jets. The incident involved the detachment of a door panel from an Alaska Airlines flight departing from Portland, Oregon, on January 5, necessitating an emergency landing. As a result, the F.A.A. initiated an investigation to determine whether Boeing adhered to safety protocols and design specifications for the Max 9.

Door plugs, essential components serving as panels in locations where an emergency door would be situated with additional seating configurations, have become a focal point in the ongoing safety assessments. While the Max 9 underwent grounding, the F.A.A. clarified that the 737-900ER, an earlier-generation model outside the Max line, has not experienced any door plug issues to date. However, as an added layer of safety, the F.A.A. is recommending airlines to conduct visual inspections on mid-exit door plugs to ensure proper securing.

The F.A.A.’s advisory suggests immediate inspections at the four crucial locations securing the door plug to the airframe of 737-900ER aircraft. This model has amassed over 11 million operational hours and approximately four million flight cycles since its introduction. Boeing, expressing unwavering support for the F.A.A. and its customers, emphasizes the importance of safety in aviation.

Airlines operating the 737-900ER, including industry giants such as Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines, have swiftly responded to the F.A.A.’s recommendation. These carriers have confirmed the commencement of inspections on their respective fleets, with assurances that the inspection process will not disrupt their flight operations.

The incident involving the Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 earlier this month, while not resulting in serious injuries, serves as a stark reminder of potential safety hazards. The National Transportation Safety Board is actively investigating the incident to ascertain the root cause behind the door plug detachment.

Concurrently, the F.A.A. has taken additional measures by mandating an initial round of inspections on 40 grounded Max 9 planes. These inspections aim to finalize comprehensive guidelines for the aircraft. The F.A.A. reported the completion of these inspections last week and is currently in the process of reviewing the collected data to further enhance the safety standards of Boeing’s aircraft.