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FAA halts Boeing MAX production expansion; outlines process to bring MAX 9 jets back

Boeing has hit another runway roadblock with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) denying any production expansion of its MAX aircraft, including the grounded B737-9s, amid the recent serious safety issues surrounding this model.

Boeing has hit another runway roadblock with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) denying any production expansion of its MAX aircraft, including the grounded B737-9s, amid the recent serious safety issues surrounding this model.

The FAA action comes on top of the US regulator’s investigation and ramped-up oversight of Boeing’s production lines and suppliers.

This follows the mid-air blowout on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 from Portland, Oregon on 5 January 2024, which saw a ‘plug-type’ passenger exit door detach during the flight.

United Airlines also found loose bolts on its B737-9 MAX planes after the FAA grounded the aircraft.

Alaska Airlines and United Airlines are the only two US carriers that operate this particular model of the Boeing 737 MAX.

Enhanced Boeing 737 MAX inspection & maintenance demand

An Alaska Airlines MAX 9
An Alaska Airlines MAX 9.

The FAA also approved a thorough inspection and maintenance process that must be performed on each of the grounded 171 Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft.

Following this process, the door plugs on the 737-9 MAX will comply with the original design, which is safe to operate. This aircraft will not operate until the process is complete and compliance with the original design is confirmed.  

Upon successful completion of these actions, only then will the aircraft be eligible to return to service. 

Safety first before service says FAA

A B737 Max 9 arriving at King County International Airport, also known as Boeing Field. United Airlines
A B737 Max 9 arriving at King County International Airport, also known as Boeing Field.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker warned that “it won’t be back to business as usual for Boeing”.

“We grounded the Boeing 737-9 MAX within hours of the incident over Portland and made clear this aircraft would not go back into service until it was safe,” he said.

“The quality assurance issues we have seen are unacceptable. That is why we will have more boots on the ground closely scrutinising and monitoring production and manufacturing activities. 

“We will not agree to any request from Boeing for an expansion in production or approve additional production lines for the 737 MAX until we are satisfied that the quality control issues uncovered during this process are resolved.”

Mr Whitaker previously said safety, not speed, would determine the timeline for the 737-9 MAX to return to service.

Several global airlines have orders for the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in place, including Virgin Australia.

Find out more at faa.gov