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24 Jan, 2024 17:19

US air carrier finds loose bolts on multiple Boeing jets

Safety inspections of the 737 MAX 9 planes operated by Alaska Airlines have revealed more quality-control failures
US air carrier finds loose bolts on multiple Boeing jets

Alaska Airlines, the US air carrier whose Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet suffered a midair blowout earlier this month, triggering a nationwide grounding of the model for safety inspections, has confirmed that it has found loose bolts on “many” of the planes in its fleet.

”It makes you mad that we’re finding issues like that on brand new airplanes,” Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said on Tuesday in an NBC News interview. He added, “I’m more than frustrated and disappointed. I’m angry. This happened to Alaska Airlines. It happened to our guests and happened to our people.”

Minicucci was referring to a January 5 flight bound for California from Portland, Oregon, that had to turn back after a door plug blew off at 16,000 feet, injuring several of the 171 passengers aboard. The outcome could have been far worse, he said, had the seat next to the door plug not been vacant – one of just seven empty seats on the flight. “We had a guardian angel, honestly, on that airplane.”

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) responded to the near-catastrophe by grounding all Boeing 737 MAX 9 jets in the country for safety checks. The latest incident follows the temporary banning of the 737 MAX, Boeing’s top-selling airliner, by aviation regulators around the world in March 2019, after crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia killed a combined 346 people. The planes were cleared to go back into service around two years later, following repairs to their flight control systems.

Minicucci said Alaska Airlines will send auditors to scrutinize the quality-control systems at Boeing to ensure that all of the jets it has ordered from the company are safe to fly. He added that the carrier will reconsider plans to buy a newer version of the 737, the long-delayed MAX 10, from Boeing.

Boeing issued a statement to NBC acknowledging that “we have let down our airline customers and are deeply sorry for the significant disruption to them, their employees and their passengers.” The massive defense contractor added that it’s taking steps to get the 737 MAX 9s back into service and improve its quality performance.

Like Minicucci, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby is rethinking plans to buy more Boeing jets following the latest safety scare. United also detected loose bolts when it performed safety inspections of its grounded 737s. “I think the MAX 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for us,” Kirby said on Tuesday in a CNBC interview. He added that Boeing needs “real action” to restore its reputation for quality.