Alaska Airlines will resume service of its 737 Max 9 fleet on Friday with a flight from Seattle to San Diego.
The carrier announced that it completed the final inspections on its first group of its 737 Max 9 aircraft so they can return to commercial service. Friday’s flight will mark the first time a 737 Max 9 with a plug door returns to the skies since its nationwide grounding earlier this month.
The update comes just two days after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved a detailed inspection and maintenance process for all 171 of Boeing’s Max 9s with plug doors to return to flying.
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Alaska said its technicians began the inspections of its planes following Wednesday’s approval. It expects to complete the inspection of all 65 of its 737 Max 9 planes by the end of next week, allowing it to operate a full flight schedule.
“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,” Alaska said in a statement. “The individual inspections are expected to take up to 12 hours per aircraft.”
Alaska previously said it would take up to 12 hours to inspect each plan.
The FAA initiated an immediate grounding of the aircraft after a 737 Max 9 operated by Alaska Airlines lost a door plug panel mid-flight earlier this month in Portland, Oregon. It forced Alaska and United, the two U.S. carriers that fly the Max 9, to cancel hundreds of flights over a prolonged period of time.
United told FOX Business that its fleet of about 79 planes is scheduled to return to service on Sunday, although they may be used as a spare before then.
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The FAA said that after every plane successfully completes the enhanced maintenance and inspection process, “the door plugs on the 737-9 MAX will be in compliance with the original design which is safe to operate.”
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The FAA is still investigating Boeing as well as its manufacturing practices and production lines, including those involving subcontractor Spirit AeroSystems.
The FAA laid out a series of actions to increase oversight of Boeing’s production lines. It also made it clear that the agency won’t agree to any request from Boeing for an expansion in production or approve additional production lines for the 737 Max until it is “satisfied that the quality control issues uncovered during this process are resolved.”
“The quality assurance issues we have seen are unacceptable,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said. “That is why we will have more boots on the ground closely scrutinizing and monitoring production and manufacturing activities.”
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