Boeing 737 Groundings Leave Airlines Scrambling

( – More than a dozen Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliners were grounded in Alaska on January 7 following a fuselage blowout the previous day. Alaska Airlines grounded 18 of its jets, causing the cancelation of 170 flights, after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said plane inspection was necessary in the wake of the incident.

“These aircraft have now also been pulled from service until details about possible additional maintenance work are confirmed with the FAA,” Alaska Airlines said.

United Airlines is the only other company to use Max 9 jetliners in America, and it was likewise forced to cancel 180 scheduled flights.

Late at night on January 6, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 blew out its fuselage around seven minutes after take-off and while flying over Oregon. No passengers or crew were injured, but cabin pressure dropped, forcing those onboard to utilize oxygen masks. The pilot immediately turned the plane around and landed safely in Portland.

Days later, an Oregon teacher said he found the piece of fuselage in his backyard in the Cedar Hills area of Portland. Identified only as Bob, the educator discovered part of the plane’s door outside his house and contacted authorities. National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said she was “very relieved” to hear that it was found.

Homendy added that the cockpit voice recorder did not record the incident because it only gathered two hours of data and was already recorded over. She called for an increase to 25 hours.

Currently, around 215 Max 9 airplanes are in service worldwide, but the two American firms operate 70% of these. Copa Airlines, which runs from Panama, announced it would also ground its fleet of 21, and AeroMexico did the same. Other operators include Fly Dubai, Iceland Air, and Turkish Airlines. A spokesman for the Turkish company said it would withdraw its five Max 9 planes “Until the technical investigation process is completed and the measures requested by the authorities are implemented.”

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