United Airlines finds loose bolts in MAX 9 jets’ emergency doors

Chicago, United States – July 09, 2021: A United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 flying near the Chicago O'Hare International Airport

United Airlines has found loose bolts on parts of an unspecified number of its now-grounded Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes’ emergency doors during an inspection of the jets, the airline confirmed.

The planes have undergone inspection after a door fell off an Alaska Airlines jet of the same model while in the air. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered the grounding of the jet in the United States and carriers around the world have followed suit. No one was seriously injured from the incident.

United confirmed the loose bolts in the following statement: “Since we began preliminary inspections on Saturday, we have found instances that appear to relate to installation issues in the door plug – for example, bolts that needed additional tightening.

“These findings will be remedied by our Tech Ops team to safely return the aircraft to service,” the airline concluded.

A door plug is an exit with a window that is only intended to be used in emergencies. According to The Autopian, a plug door contains four bolts that lock the plug in place from moving vertically and outward. These are the bolts United found loose on an unspecified number of planes.

This is the part of the Alaska Airlines plane that fell off mid-flight, eventually landing in a science teacher’s backyard in Portland, Oregon.

The majority of MAX 9 jets are used in the the US by United and Alaska, while Aeromexico, Copa Airlines and Turkish Airlines have announced that they have grounded their MAX 9s for inspection.

United cancelled 200 flights as on Monday and expects significant cancellations today.

“We have been able to operate some planned flights by switching to other aircraft types, avoiding about 30 cancellations each on Monday and Tuesday,” a United spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the FAA has provided a checklist for operators to follow during their respective inspections. The FAA said the MAX 9 aircraft will stay grounded until operators “complete enhanced inspections which include both left and right cabin door exit plugs, door components, and fasteners.

“Operators must also complete corrective action requirements based on findings from the inspections prior to bringing any aircraft back into service,” the statement added.

Boeing said it is staying in close contact with operators as they conduct their inspections and will help address findings.

This ordeal has spelt financial trouble for Boeing, which saw its stock price drop nearly eight per cent since Friday.

Meanwhile the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is leading an investigation into the incident and reported that pilots had seen pressurisation warning lights on several of the specific Alaska Airlines MAX 9 plane which was involved in the incident. NTSB chief Jennifer Homendy said the jet had been prevented from making long-haul flights over water if it needed to “return very quickly to an airport.”

While no MAX 9 planes are operated in Australia, Bonza and Virgin Australia have confirmed their 737 MAX 8 aircraft have been checked after a safety warning was issued at the end of last year.

The MAX 8s were grounded across the globe after a fault in the plane’s design resulted in two crashes that killed hundreds of passengers in 2018 and 2019. The planes have since returned to service after Boeing made changes to its flight control system which was implicated in the crashes.

(Featured Image: United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 – iStock/Wirestock)

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