FAA Grounds Boeing 737 Max 9 Until Further Data Provided, Considers Independent Inspections

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Friday that the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max 9 jets will continue until additional data is provided by the aircraft manufacturer. The FAA stated that it needs to analyze data from inspections of a subset of the grounded planes before deciding whether to lift the ban that was imposed after a fuselage section blew out during an Alaskan Airlines flight. FAA administrator Michael Whitaker emphasized the agency’s commitment to preventing similar incidents in the future.

Boeing had previously claimed to have given instructions to airlines on how to inspect the planes, but the FAA stated that it requires more information before approving the inspection regimen. Nonetheless, the FAA expressed its encouragement at the thoroughness of Boeing’s instructions for inspections and maintenance. In response to the extended grounding of the Max 9 jets, United Airlines, which operates the largest number of these planes, has cancelled flights until Tuesday as it prepares for incoming winter storms across the United States.

The FAA also indicated that it is considering revoking Boeing’s authority to conduct certain aircraft inspections, as it reevaluates the oversight program where Boeing’s own employees certify aircraft safety on behalf of the FAA. This review was triggered by the grounding of some 737 Max 9s following a recent mid-air incident in Oregon. FAA administrator Whitaker stated that the agency is exploring the possibility of using an independent third party to oversee inspections and quality controls of Boeing’s aircraft.

Furthermore, the FAA announced plans to increase its oversight of Boeing’s production immediately. The agency has initiated an investigation to determine whether the planes being produced by Boeing adhere to the specified specifications. As part of this increased oversight, the FAA will conduct audits of the 737 Max 9 production line and its suppliers, to evaluate Boeing’s compliance with approved quality procedures.

The safety concerns surrounding Boeing’s aircraft have drawn attention to Spirit AeroSystems, the supplier of the fuselage for the Max planes. Spirit AeroSystems has faced scrutiny over the past year due to quality lapses. The National Transportation Safety Board has received the door panel section of the plane involved in the Alaskan Airlines incident for investigation.

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell has questioned the FAA’s involvement in inspecting Boeing’s aircraft, citing recent accidents and incidents that call into question Boeing’s quality control and the effectiveness of the FAA’s oversight processes. In response to these concerns, the FAA has pledged to increase monitoring of any disruptions experienced by the Max 9s during operations.

Overall, the FAA reiterated that the safety of the flying public takes precedence over speed in determining when the Boeing 737 Max 9 will be cleared for service again. Boeing has expressed cooperation and support for the FAA’s actions, emphasizing its commitment to quality and safety across its production system. As the investigation and oversight continue, regulators and Boeing will work together to ensure the safe operation of these aircraft.