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Boeing CEO, ‘We simply must do better,’ Alaska Airlines resumes 737-9 MAX service

SEATTLE—Alaska Airlines resumed its Boeing 737-9 MAX service on January 26, with Flight 1146 from Seattle to San Diego, making it the first 737-9 MAX flight since suspending services of the aircraft after a rear mid-cabin door blew off during a flight from Portland to Ontario, Canada on January 5.

dave calhoun
Dave Calhoun

“We caused the problem and we understand that,” Boeing President & CEO Dave Calhoun said during the company’s fourth quarter end-year earnings results on January 31.

Calhoun shared the disappointment customers, regulators and congressional leaders have of the incident and vowed that through action, Boeing will regain confidence in its brand.

“Whatever conclusions are reached [from the NTSB’s investigation], Boeing is accountable for what happened,” Calhoun said. “Whatever the specific cause of an accident might turn out to be, an event like this simply must not happen when an airplane leaves one of our factories. We simply must do better. Our customers deserve better.”

Calhoun commended the pilots and crew for saving the lives of the almost 200 aboard the aircraft and thanked the leaderships at Alaska for putting safety first by grounding the planes.

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Click on picture to be directed to video announcement.

The SeaTac-based airliner completed its final inspection of the first group of 737-9 MAX aircrafts that on the morning of January 26, just two days after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the detailed and inspection process for the aircraft to resume commercial flights. Alaska Airlines expects the full completion of inspections will be concluded by the end of the week so that they can return to their full flight schedule.

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NTSB investigation of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX. SOURCE: https://youtu.be/QoiGuuGZPNc?si=Boyjqb310jIjdTGq

“Each of our 737-9 MAX will return to service only after the rigorous inspections are completed and each plane is deemed airworthy according to FAA requirements. The individual inspections are expected to take up to 12 hours per aircraft,” Alaska Airlines wrote in a press release published January 26, the morning it resumed limited 737-9 MAX flights. “We remain extremely grateful to our skilled Maintenance and Engineering team that is shouldering the inspection work and safely returning the planes to service, along with gratitude to all our employees who continue to help support our guests.”

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SOURCE: Information about Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 and our 737-9 MAX fleet – Alaska Airlines News

The NTSB assumed the lead role in the investigation of the incident, with the support of Alaska’s safety and technical teams and Boeing representatives. With the approval and direction of the FAA, Alaska technicians developed a checklist before opening its mid-cabin door plug on subsequent flights. The checklist bullet points are summarized as follows:

  • Before opening the mid-cabin door plug, Alaska Airlines will confirm it was properly installed by ensuring all hardware is in place and all clearances are measured and recorded
  • Alaska Airlines will then open the door plug and inspect for any damages or abnormalities to the door and seal components, including the guide fittings, roller guides and hinges, and inspect nut plates and fasteners 
  • Alaska Airlines will resecure each door plug and ensure it is sealed properly per approved FAA guidance before the aircraft is returned to service 
  • Each inspection, including recording detailed measurements of hardware location, could take at least 12 hours for each aircraft

Alaska Airlines says they plan to inspect their aircraft’s two door plugs at least every 24 months when each plane undergoes routine maintenance checks.

Furthermore, Alaska Airlines is offering a flexible travel policy for guests who do not feel comfortable flying on a 737-9 MAX aircraft from now until February 2, offering alternative aircraft options. Aircraft models can be found on the “details” tab when booking a flight on alaskaair.com.

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Incident

On Friday, January 5, Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 departing Portland International Airport to Ontario, California, at 5:06 p.m., made a return emergency landing 20 minutes later after a rear mid-cabin exit door assembly separated from the fuselage in mid-air depressurizing the 10-week-old airplane. All 171 guests and 6 crew members landed back safely.

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Image of the blown exit door of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282. SOURCE: RawAlerts.

Alaska Airlines CEO, Ben Minicucci, then announced the grounding of all 65 Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft for full maintenance and safety inspections that would last several days. The FAA announced on January 6 the temporary grounding of all U.S.-operated Boeing 737-9 airplanes with a mid-cabin door plug installed for immediate inspections.

“My heart goes out to those who were on this flight – I am so sorry for what you experienced,” Minicucci wrote in a statement released on the airline’s website and X. “I am so grateful for the response of our pilots and flight attendants. We have teams on the ground in Portland assisting passengers and are working to support guests who are traveling in the days ahead.”

Minicucci added, “I am personally committed to doing everything we can to conduct this review in a timely and transparent way.”

The Boeing 737-9MAX aircraft reached a maximum altitude of 16,325 feet when, 20 minutes into the flight, the incident occurred. Part of the unoccupied passenger seat next to the blown-out mid-cabin exit door was sucked out of the plane along with personal items such as mobile phones and a child’s shirt being ripped off. NTSB reports that there were no reported injuries.

“It was really abrupt, just got to altitude and the window/wall just popped off,” Kyle Rinker, a passenger on flight 1282 told CNN.

For high-density seating configurations, the Boeing 737-9MAX facilitates a rear mid-cabin exit door just after the wings to meet evacuation requirements in case of an emergency, flightradar24 reports. The plane’s identification number, N704AL, entered commercial service on November 11, 2023, as a brand-new aircraft and accumulated 145 flights including in January 5 incident.

Alaska Airlines first flew a Boeing 737-9 MAX from Seattle to Los Angeles on March 1, 2021. The 737-9 MAX carries 178 passengers including 16 First Class seats, 24 Premium Class Seats, and 138 seats in the main cabin.

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