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Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 Incident Prompts FAA Grounding

The Alaska Airline Boeing 737 MAX 9 was forced to make an emergency landing after a cabin panel blew out, causing a hole in the fuselage. 

The head of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Jennifer Homendy, announced in a press conference on Saturday that no passengers were seated next to the section that suffered the blowout.

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“We are very, very fortunate here that this didn’t end up in something more tragic,” Ms Homendy said.

Alaska Air reported that travel disruptions resulting from the grounding were expected to last through at least mid-next week. 

The incident led to the suspension of 171 Boeing 737-9 MAX jetliners by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for safety checks.

Ms Homendy said the investigation would scrutinise maintenance records, the pressurisation system, and the door components.

The blown-out damaged parts of the seat and the headrest, while the missing door plug, believed to be in a suburb west of Portland, became a crucial piece of evidence sought by investigators.

Ms Homendy also urged the public’s assistance in locating the missing door plug.

Alaska Air and United Airlines are the only US carriers using the MAX 9. 

Alaska Air cancelled 160 flights (20 per cent of scheduled trips), and United cancelled 104 flights (four per cent of departures) due to the grounding.

According to Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority, no Boeing 737 MAX 9s have been flown by any airlines in Australia.

Boeing, facing ongoing production issues, awaits certification for its MAX 7 and MAX 10 models to compete with the Airbus A321neo. 

The recent incident adds to the challenges the company has faced since the crashes in 2019, with a recent advisory for airlines to inspect all 737 MAX planes for a possible loose bolt in the rudder control system.

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