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7 Jan, 2024 11:11

Scores of Boeings grounded worldwide after midair blowout incident

The company had been criticized for two fatal crashes involving variants of the 737 Max jet several years ago
Scores of Boeings grounded worldwide after midair blowout incident

Dozens of Boeing 737 Max 9 planes have been grounded across the world, including in the US, Latin America, Türkiye and the EU, after an aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing due to a panel detaching midair.

On Friday, Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 traveling from Portland, Oregon, to California, had to turn back shortly after takeoff when a large chunk of the plane’s fuselage broke off, exposing the cabin to the outside environment. None of the 174 passengers or six crew members on board were seriously injured, although several people required medical attention. While the cause of the incident remains unclear, Alaska Airlines has temporarily grounded all 65 of its 737 Max 9 aircraft for safety inspections.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Saturday that it had ordered the temporary grounding of a certain number of 737 Max 9 aircraft either operated by US airlines or within the country, requiring immediate inspections before they can take off. The order affects about 171 airplanes, officials said.

Boeing said that it fully supports the FAA’s decision and “deeply regret[s]” the incident, adding that its technicians are assisting in the investigation.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency adopted the US air regulator’s directive, but noted that no airline in the EU “currently operate[s] an aircraft in the affected configuration,” as quoted by Reuters. Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said that while UK airlines do not fly this type of plane, it has asked foreign permit carriers to request that inspections be undertaken prior to operation in UK airspace.

Turkish Airlines also announced that it would suspend the operation of its five Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft until the technical review process is completed, stressing that “flight safety is our top priority.” Latin American carriers Copa Airlines and Aeromexico followed suit, also grounding 40 aircraft.

The recent incident is the latest in the string of mishaps that have plagued the company and its best-selling 737 Max series in the past few years. It was grounded for 20 months after two crashes in Ethiopia (2019) and Indonesia (2018), which killed 346 people. The company has also struggled with manufacturing defects, and last month it asked airlines to inspect its Max airplanes to look for a loose bolt in the rudder control system.