Given the further delay in inspections of the Boeing 737 Max 9, it’s increasingly unlikely that the aircraft will be able to return to service mid-week.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that Boeing will revise its instructions to carriers for inspections of its 737 Max 9 aircraft after United Airlines and Alaska Airlines reported finding some loose hardware.
“Boeing offered an initial version of instructions yesterday which they are now revising because of feedback received in response,” the FAA said in a statement.
The federal agency initially greenlighted inspections of the 737-9 Monday, but inspections can’t continue until new instructions are approved.
“Every Boeing 737-9 Max with a plug door will remain grounded until the FAA finds each can safely return to operation,” the FAA said. “To begin this process, Boeing must provide instructions to operators for inspections and maintenance.”
Once Boeing provides updated instructions to the FAA, the agency said it will conduct a thorough review of the instructions before any further inspections can go forward.
The FAA previously said inspections for each 737-9 should take anywhere from four to eight hours. Airlines had hoped planes would return by at least mid-week, but now it’s unclear when Boeing will provide the FAA with a set of revised instructions and when the FAA will approve them.
Boeing did not respond to a request for comment.
“The safety of the flying public, not speed, will determine the timeline for returning the Boeing 737-9 Max to service,” the FAA said.
The FAA ordered a temporary grounding of the 737-9 — affecting 171 planes worldwide — after a door plug on the fuselage of an Alaska Airlines jet blew off mid-air on Friday. The plane was able to land safely and no one was seriously injured.
United and Alaska, the only two U.S. carriers that fly the 737-9, have canceled hundreds of flights as a result of the grounding. As of Tuesday afternoon, United canceled 214 flights for the day; Alaska had canceled 108 flights, according to FlightAware.
Copa Airlines and Aeromexico have also grounded dozens of 737-9s in their respective fleets since the FAA order also affects international carriers that operate the 737-9 on U.S. routes.
The accident on the Alaska jet is the latest string of issues affecting Boeing’s 737 Max fleet. United and Alaska both reported finding loose bolts in their initial inspections of the 737-9 on Monday, renewing scrutiny on the aircraft manufacturer. After two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, the FAA grounded the 737-8 for nearly two years.
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