It’s no surprise that the aviation industry got off to a rough start for 2024. Following the Japan Airlines A350 crash in Tokyo, Japan, and the light airplane crash in Bequia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, it’s no surprise that some people have felt uneasy given the extensive media coverage behind those incidents.
On January 5, Alaska Airlines flight AS1282 was scheduled to fly from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California. During its climb through 14,000 feet, the aircraft suffered uncontrolled cabin decompression as a result of a failure related to the door plug located on the left side of the aircraft behind the wing.
Thankfully the aircraft was able to return to the Salt Lake City airport, and while there were no fatalities, there was once again a renewed sense of fear for the 737 MAX line of aircraft.
After the two MAX 8 crashes in 2018 and 2019, travel metasearch site Kayak was the first major brand to add an aircraft type filter, allowing users to filter out the MAX family of aircraft to find flights they were more comfortable with. The filter can either exclude or include major aircraft types including the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9, 777s and 787s. Airbus filters are also available for the A320neo, A330neo and A350.
Kayak noted that following Alaska’s door plug incident, they saw a 15 fold increase in usage of its the 737 MAX exclusion filter. Following this spike, the company later split the filters to allow users to filter by MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft (given that Alaska’s affected aircraft was a MAX 9).
The company’s CEO Steve Hafner did stress that passengers should still check their flight details closer to the date of travel as there is always the possibility of a last minute equipment swap.
Metasearch sites like Google Flights also show the aircraft type operating the route, but unfortunately do not allow you to filter by that aircraft type.
What’s going on with the 737 MAX 9?
Following the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered the temporary grounding of certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory. Some international MAX 9 operators with door plugs fitted to their aircraft also chose to temporarily ground their planes out of precaution.
On Wednesday, the FAA announced that it has so far since inspected 40 of the 171 grounded aircraft operating within its purview, and said it will extend its investigation to look into Boeing’s manufacturing practices and production lines, including those involving subcontractor Spirit AeroSystems.
Once all 171 aircraft are inspected, the FAA will then publish its findings, as well as required remedial work by all parties involved including Boeing, its 3rd party subcontractors, and operators, before they lifting the grounding order.
All 737-9 MAX aircraft with door plugs will remain grounded pending the FAA’s review and final approval of an inspection and maintenance process that satisfies all FAA safety requirements. Once the FAA approves an inspection and maintenance process, it will be required on every grounded 737-9 MAX prior to future operation. The safety of the flying public, not speed, will determine the timeline for returning these aircraft to service.
[Featured Photo: Tim/Flickr (Public Domain) ]