FAA Clears Way For Boeing 737 Max 9s To Potentially Resume Flying—But Prohibits Increased Production

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The Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday a pathway toward resumed flights for Boeing 737 Max 9 jets, but it won’t allow Boeing to expand production of the planes after a hole was blown into the side of an Alaska Airlines flight using one of the jets earlier this month, prompting temporary groundings and thorough inspections from the FAA.

Boeing will be prohibited from expanding production of its Max jets, including the 737-9 Max model, under the order from the FAA on Wednesday.

The FAA also said it approved an inspection and maintenance process that will be performed on all of the 171 grounded Boeing 737-9 Max planes, which if successful, will make the aircraft eligible to return to service.

The inspection and maintenance process was approved after the FAA reviewed data collected from inspections on 40 grounded planes.

Maintenance performed on the aircraft will involve inspection of exit door plugs and parts associated with them, bolts, guide tracks and the correction of damage.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement that the extensive review of the planes wouldn’t mark a return to “business as usual for Boeing.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating whether or not the door panel that blew off the Alaska Airlines flight was properly bolted before takeoff. Investigators have found the plane’s plug door but have yet to recover the bolts associated with it. The FAA recommended this week that airlines inspect door plugs on Boeing 737-900ER aircraft, a different model from the one involved in the Alaska Airlines incident. The agency, which said the 737-900ER’s door plugs “have an identical door plug design” to the Max 9, asked airlines to inspect four points where a bolt is used to secure the door to the airframe of the 737-900ER.

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