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Memo: AS Boeing 737 Max-9
Jan 10, 2024


AMFA-ASA Membership
Bret Oestreich, National President
January 10, 2024
Alaska Airlines 737 Max-9

In a statement issued on Saturday, January 6, 2024, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered the temporary grounding of specific Boeing 737 Max-9 aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory. “The FAA is requiring immediate inspections of certain Boeing 737 Max-9 planes before they can return to flight,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said. “Safety will continue to drive our decision-making as we assist the NTSB’s investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.”

The Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD) requires operators to inspect affected aircraft before further flight. The EAD will affect approximately 171 airplanes worldwide, taking approximately four to eight hours per aircraft (FAA AD 2024-02-51).

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci made the hard decision to initiate a safety precaution to temporarily ground Alaska Airlines' 737 Max-9 fleet before the FAA-mandated grounding. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from Alaska Airlines Maintenance and Engineering (M&E), the AMFA Accident Investigation Team, and the Flight Attendants’ (AFA) and Pilots' (ALPA) unions helped the NTSB with their 3-day investigation to determine the root cause of this 737 MAX-9 incident. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation findings and the FAA Airworthiness Directives (ADs) are anticipated to be issued later this week. The FAA AD will include the detailed inspection process and requirements, such as sidewall liners, plug door seal, proper fit and fair measurements, proper hardware installation/torque specifications of locking bolt guide fittings, lower hinge bracket assembly, security of the plug door and fuselage pressure decay check, potential installation issues in the plug door emergency exit area of the fuselage, etc.

Alaska Airlines is working to return their Boeing 737 Max-9 fleet to service, and AMFA-Alaska Aircraft Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) are proactively being dispatched to inspect the grounded aircraft system-wide. Alaska's AMTs began preliminary inspections on Saturday afternoon after EAD 2024-02-51 was issued; as our AMTs began preparing our 737 Max-9 fleet for initial inspections, they accessed a visual inspection of the plug door area in question. Initial reports from our AMTs observed loose hardware on some aircraft. Any current and further findings will be remedied by the M&E team in compliance with the FAA-mandated AD before any of the airline’s 65 Boeing 737 MAX-9 are returned to service.

The FAA stated yesterday, “Every Boeing 737-9 Max with a plug door will remain grounded until the FAA finds each can safely return to operation. To begin this process, Boeing must provide instructions to operators for inspections and maintenance. Boeing offered an initial version of instructions yesterday which they are now revising because of feedback received in response. Upon receiving the revised version of instructions from Boeing, the FAA will conduct a thorough review. The safety of the flying public, not speed, will determine the timeline for returning the Boeing 737-9 Max to service.”

The AMFA Accident Investigation Team (AIT) will continue to help and assist the NTSB regarding their ongoing investigation, which could take several weeks, and AMFA-Alaska AMTs will be sent on maintenance field trips from multiple staffed stations to inspect the grounded aircraft to complete and comply with the FAA’s final AD return to service plug door inspections.

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