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United Airlines Find More Loose Bolts in Door Plugs of Boeing 737 Max Airplanes After Alaskan Airlines Incident

The discovery of loose bolts on some Boeing 737 door plugs comes just a few days after a door plug blew off an Alaska Airlines flight.

Images shows a United Airlines Boeing 737 aircraft.
United Airlines have currently put a halt to all Boeing 737 flights for inspections. Credit: Shutterstock/Markus Mainka

United Airlines said on Monday that it has found loose bolts in need of “additional tightening“ during inspections of Boeing 737 Max 9s.

In a statement on Monday evening, United Airlines said that they had found “some loose hardware” visible on some airplanes. United went on to say that they would address any such issues. They would address these issues to be in line with safety standards and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) compliance.  

“Since we began preliminary inspections on Saturday, we have found instances that appear to relate to installation issues in the door plug – for example, bolts that needed additional tightening,” United Airlines said in their statement.  

“These findings will be remedied by our Tech Ops team to safely return the aircraft to service,” they added.

Due to this halt of Boeing 737 Max 9 flights because of ongoing inspections, United Airlines had to cancel 200 Boeing 737 flights on Monday. United also scheduled major cancellations for Tuesday.

However, they did add that some flights were able to go ahead. This was due to a change in aircraft type, helping to avoid 30 cancellations.

Boeing Statement

In response to the United Airlines findings, Boeing issued a statement on Monday evening. It said, “As operators conduct the required inspections, we are staying in close contact with them and will help address any and all findings.”

They continued, “We are committed to ensuring every Boeing airplane meets design specifications and the highest safety and quality standards. We regret the impact this has had on our customers and their passengers.”

Alaska Airlines Incident

These findings by United Airlines come days after a door plug blew off Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on Friday. The aircraft for this flight was also a Boeing 737.

The door plug blew off shortly after the aircraft had taken off from an airport in Portland, Oregon. The incident forced pilots to struggle to land the plane safely.

The flight was carrying 171 passengers, including three babies and four unaccompanied minors.

None of the crew or passengers on the flight suffered serious injuries due to the event.

The door plug would eventually land in a Portland teacher’s back garden. It was found without the four bolts needed to keep it in place, according to a statement by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Monday night.

Jennifer Homendy, chair of the NTSB, told reporters that the bolts may have come loose during the descent of the door plug. However, Homendy also said that they may not have been there from the beginning.

She went on to say that the incident blew open the cockpit door. This was in addition to the sudden decompression also pulling off the first officer’s headset.

What is the Boeing 737 door plug?

The door plug itself is a component used on the Boeing 737 Max 9 to replace an exit that would be installed on planes designed to carry more passengers.

Two companies fit the panel to the Boeing 737 in two different stages. Firstly, by supplier Spirit AeroSystems (SPR.N), and then later completed by Boeing. How the door plug is usually attached to the plane is with a series of bolts, cables, hinges, and stop pads.

Spirit shares fell by 11% on Monday.

The investigations into the aircraft will also examine both manufacturing and maintenance records.

Written By

Matthew McKeown is a student at Ulster University, in his final year of a BA History degree. His interests include current affairs, politics, and international relations.

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