Alaska Airlines Resumes Operations with Boeing 737 MAX 9 Aircraft

Alaska Airlines has recommenced operations with its Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft, following a three-week suspension due to a door plug detachment incident on one of its planes over Portland. The airline’s inaugural MAX 9 flight post-grounding departed from Seattle, heading to San Diego on Friday afternoon.

The airline has reintegrated the MAX 9 into its fleet, after temporarily halting operations of these aircraft in response to the door plug issue on Flight 1282, which occurred on January 5th. Alaska Airlines Flight 1146 took off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) at 15:51, with a delay of more than 90 minutes, and landed at San Diego International Airport (SAN) at 18:09.

Photo by Alaska Airlines

Highlighting her trust in the aircraft’s safety, Constance von Muehlen, Alaska Airlines’ Chief Operating Officer, was aboard this flight. She occupied a window seat in Row 26, positioned nearest to the door where the plug issue had occurred.

Flightradar24 data indicates that the aircraft used for the service was N929AK, a Boeing 737 MAX 9, approximately two years old, acquired by Alaska in December 2021. Prior to this, the aircraft was stationed in Denver for grounding and subsequently underwent inspection at Will Rogers Airport (OKC) in Oklahoma City.

Via Flightradar24

On Friday, January 26th, the airline also operated two additional MAX 9 flights: one from Seattle to Ontario (ONT) and another from Las Vegas (LAS) to Portland (PDX), as part of its gradual reintegration of this aircraft model into regular service.

As part of the process of resuming operations, Alaska Airlines has announced the completion of inspections on an initial batch of MAX 9s, with expectations to finish reviewing its entire fleet by the end of the following week. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted approval on January 24th for Boeing’s updated inspection and maintenance procedures, facilitating the return of the MAX 9s to service.

Photo by: Michael Vi | iStock

The airline stated:

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. We expect inspections on our 737-9 MAX to be completed by the end of next week, allowing us to operate our full flight schedule.

The airline also noted that each aircraft inspection is expected to last about 12 hours. United Airlines is similarly preparing to reintegrate its MAX 9 fleet, with its inaugural flight scheduled for Saturday. United Airlines will offer passengers reluctant to fly on the MAX the option to switch flights at no extra cost. Both Alaska and United have reported finding “loose hardware” on multiple aircraft during their inspections.

Concerns Raised About Boeing’s Role

Boeing has faced criticism and regulatory scrutiny following the AS1282 incident, particularly regarding its manufacturing processes. A report from the Seattle Times suggests that Boeing mechanics, not Spirit Aerospace, were responsible for installing the defective door plug that detached recently. The plug, initially removed for repair, was reattached to the fuselage.

An anonymous Boeing employee informed the Seattle Times that Boeing’s records indicated that four bolts, essential for securing the door to the frame, were missing when the aircraft was delivered. This information supports the ongoing investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) into the incident.

Featured Image by Laser1987 | iStock

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