United Says It Found Loose Bolts on Grounded Jets

Discovery adds to Boeing's woes
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2024 7:10 PM CST
United Says It Found Loose Bolts on Grounded Jets
In this Nov. 18, 2020 photo, a Boeing 737 Max 9 built for United Airlines lands at King County International Airport-Boeing Field after a test flight.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

United Airlines says it has found loose bolts on door plugs on several of its Boeing 737 Max 9 jets during inspections carried out after one of the panels blew out during an Alaska Airlines flight. "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. These findings will be remedied by our Tech Ops team to safely return the aircraft to service," the airline said, per Reuters.

United and Alaska are the only American airlines to operate Max 9s, which were grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration after Friday's incident. United has 79 of the aircraft, and Alaska has 65, CNBC reports. Insiders tell the Air Current that loose bolts and other parts were found on at least five United aircraft. The publication notes that the aircraft were delivered between November 2022 and September 2023, meaning they likely would not have been through "C" check, a "heavy maintenance" check carried out on aircraft after 4,000 to 6,000 hours of flying time.

Alaska and United canceled a total of 342 flights on Monday, accounting for around 20% of Alaska's schedule and 7% of United's, CNN reports. Alaska said it is awaiting instructions from the FAA. "While we await the airworthiness directive inspection criteria from the FAA and Boeing, our maintenance teams are prepared and ready to perform the required inspections," the airline said in a statement. Nobody was injured when the door plug blew out a few minutes into the Friday flight, but experts say it could have been catastrophic if the aircraft had been at its cruising altitude. (More Boeing stories.)

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