Boeing Has A MAX 9 Problem: United and Alaska Report Loose Bolts

Both United Airlines (NASDAQ: UAL) and Alaska Airlines (NYSE: ALK) have reported discovering loose parts on multiple grounded Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes, intensifying concerns about the manufacturing process of the popular jet family. The development comes after US regulators grounded 171 MAX 9 planes following an incident where a panel detached from an Alaska Airlines-operated flight shortly after takeoff.

Alaska Airlines revealed that preliminary reports from its technicians identified “loose hardware” on some of its aircraft during checks while awaiting final documentation from Boeing (NYSE: BA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before formal inspections could commence. 

United Airlines, another major carrier operating the MAX 9, reported finding bolts requiring tightening on several panels during their initial checks. The number of airplanes with loose bolts found by United has reportedly risen to close to 10 during preliminary inspections, and this may still increase as inspections are ongoing.

Ongoing discussions between Boeing, the FAA, and the airlines are focused on establishing precise inspection guidelines. Boeing is expected to revise its guidelines submitted to airlines, pending FAA approval, before repairs can commence. The aircraft manufacturer emphasized its commitment to meeting safety standards and addressing any findings during inspections.

The revelations have brought attention to the production process of the grounded MAX 9 jets, with industry insiders noting passengers expressing safety concerns despite the model being used by only a few carriers. This incident marks another setback for Boeing, already grappling with production issues since the 737 MAX family’s extended grounding in 2019 following two fatal crashes.

The FAA declined to comment on the loose bolt reports, stating that planes would remain grounded until operators completed enhanced inspections. The specific issue involves a panel known as a door plug, installed in two stages by supplier Spirit AeroSystems (NYSE: SPR) and Boeing. 

The regulator emphasized the need for enhanced inspections, including examination of both left and right cabin door exit plugs, door components, and fasteners. The grounding has led to widespread flight cancellations, affecting Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, with additional carriers like Turkish Airlines, Copa Airlines, and Aeromexico grounding affected jets.

Via Reuters

Data compiled by Reuters reveal that United and Alaska are the top two biggest customers of the MAX 9, with 79 and 65 respectively. Following the order to ground MAX 9 planes, Alaska canceled 141 flights while United canceled 226 flights on Monday. It would take about four to eight hours to inspect each plane, according to the FAA. Inspecting all 171 could take a few days.

Boeing’s shares dropped 8%, while Spirit’s shares sank 11%.

Information for this story was found via Bloomberg, The New York Times, Reuters, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

Leave a Reply