A new safety concern has emerged for Boeing as the US aviation watchdog issues a safety alert regarding the 737-900ER jet. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has advised airlines to visually inspect mid-exit door plugs on this aircraft, following a recent incident where a cabin panel blew off a 737 Max 9 jet during an Alaska Airlines flight, leading to the grounding of 171 Max 9 jets.
Although the 737-900ER is not part of Boeing’s newer Max fleet, it shares an identical mid-exit door plug design. The FAA has recommended the inspection after some operators reported findings with bolts during additional checks on the 900ER, without providing specific details.
Boeing, already under scrutiny for the recent Max 9 incident, expressed full support for the FAA’s actions. The cabin panel blowout on a 737 Max 9 raised concerns about Boeing’s safety procedures and supply chain. Alaska and United Airlines, the only US carriers using the Max 9, discovered loose parts on multiple grounded aircraft, leading to flight cancellations and ongoing regulatory investigations.
The 737-900ER, an established aircraft with deliveries spanning from 2007 to 2019, has an optional door plug design allowing for additional emergency exits if more seats are installed. Approximately 79 of these jets are estimated to have a door instead of a plug.
The FAA’s safety alert for the 737-900ER urged airlines to check the door’s four locations securing it to the airframe. Alaska, United, and Delta Air Lines, the primary operators of the 737-900ERs with door plugs, stated they were inspecting their fleets without anticipating passenger disruptions.
Boeing is currently dealing with its most significant safety crisis since the 2018 and 2019 crashes of the 737 Max 8 jets, with analysts questioning whether executive resignations might be necessary. The FAA is reviewing inspection data from the Max 9, emphasizing the need to restore confidence in the integrity of door plug systems. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating various records related to the door plug, with uncertainty about the proper installation of bolts on the Alaska Airlines jet.