United found loose bolts on its 737 Max 9 planes following an Alaska Airlines door seal incident
United Airlines said Monday it found loose bolts during inspections of its fleet of 737 Max 9 planes following a door plug on an Alaska Airlines plane that exploded over the weekend.
United would not say how many planes had loose bolts.
“Since we began initial inspections on Saturday, we have found instances that appear to be related to installation issues with the door seal — for example, screws that need additional tightening,” United said in a statement. “These findings will be processed by our technical operations team to safely return the aircraft to service.”
The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all 737 Max 9 aircraft following the Alaska Airlines incident.
“The FAA’s top priority is keeping air travelers safe,” she said in a statement. “We have grounded the affected aircraft, and they will remain parked until the FAA is satisfied they are safe.”
United said that because of emergency inspections, it had to cancel 200 Max 9 flights on Monday and expects “significant cancellations” on Tuesday as well.
In response to United’s findings, Boeing issued a statement Monday evening saying, “While operators conduct required inspections, we remain in close contact with them and will help address any and all findings. We are committed to ensuring every Boeing aircraft meets design specifications.” “And the highest standards of safety and quality. We regret the impact this has had on our customers and their passengers.”
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash on an Alaska Airlines flight near Portland, Oregon, has not yet commented on United Airlines’ announcement.
NTSB investigators recovered a door seal that fell off Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on Sunday, giving them the key piece of evidence they are examining with a laboratory microscope.
The plug, which measures 26 by 46 inches and weighs 63 pounds, was discovered intact Sunday evening in the backyard of a Portland teacher’s home, according to NTSB officials.
The part of the plane, a Boeing 737 Max 9, fell around 5:11 p.m. local time on Friday, as the plane carrying 171 passengers, including three children and four unaccompanied minors, rose to 16,000 feet after taking off from Portland Airport. International, according to the British newspaper “Daily Mail”. To NTSB.
A door stopper is used to seal off unused exits on aircraft and, according to a diagram released by the NTSB, is attached to the aircraft with a series of bolts, cables, hinges and stop pads.
The mid-air incident caused an “explosive decompression” on the Alaska Airlines plane and prompted the flight crew to immediately return to Portland with a large hole in the side of the plane, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
No one was injured in the accident. But NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy told reporters that had the accident occurred at 30,000 feet, “we could have ended up with something much more tragic.”
During a press conference on Sunday evening, Homendy said that the separation of the door seal caused a violent and chaotic situation inside the plane cabin and sucked the headrests, at least one tray table and two mobile phones from the hole in the plane.
The accident also caused the cockpit door to open and suck out a quick checklist used by pilots, Homendy said.
“The laminated checklist goes out the door. The captain takes the quick reference guide, hands it to the first officer. They start going over the items from memory,” Homendy said.
The sudden decompression also caused the first officer’s headset and part of the captain’s headset to come off, she said.
“They put their (oxygen) masks on and turned on the loudspeaker so they could communicate with the people in the cabin,” Homendy said.
She added that the accident also caused damage to rows 1 to 33 of the plane.
The investigation also found three previous incidents on an Alaska Airlines plane in which the automatic pressure light malfunctioned during flights on December 7, 2023; Homendi added that on January 3 and 4.
“On these previous flights, after the light came on, they flipped the switch to the alternate position, which is normal. There’s a backup. It was very benign. Nothing happened,” Homendy said.
She said it is still unclear whether there is a relationship between the automatic pressure light coming on and the door plug exploding. Alaska Airlines banned the plane from flying to Hawaii over water and limited its use to land “so if some light comes on, it can quickly return to the airport,” she said.
Although the cockpit voice recorder was recovered from the plane, it did not contain useful data because it was programmed to reset and re-record every two hours, Homendy said.
“So, we don’t have anything from the CVR,” Homendy said.
She said investigators are closely examining the door seal and the frame from which it was blown, as well as all the components used to keep it in place to determine the cause of the accident. She added that the investigation also includes interviews with the six-member cabin crew and passengers.