FAA Gives Green Light for Boeing 737 MAX 9 to Fly Again

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on January 24, 2024 laid out its plan to allow the Boeing 737 MAX 9s, which have been grounded since the Alaska 1282 incident earlier this month, to fly again.

The plan includes a full, detailed set of inspection and maintenance instructions, which the FAA wrote after reviewing data from inspections of 40 of the grounded planes. Here’s what the FAA is requiring:

  • Each plane will have to have its specific bolts, guide tracks, and fittings inspected.
  • Each plan will need a detailed visual inspection of the left and right mid-cabin exit door plugs before flying.
  • All will need a retorquing of the fasteners.
  • Any damage or abnormal conditions will need to be corrected.

Once all of those steps are completed, the MAX 9s will be eligible to return to service, meaning that Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, the two North American carriers with the most significant fleet of MAX 9s, will be able to move towards more normal operations.

Still, it’s not going back to business as usual for Boeing, which was also the subject of headlines this week for a separate incident with 757s. The FAA on Wednesday went as far as to say that, even with those inspections, Boeing won’t be allowed to operate in the same way it had prior.

Perhaps most damaging for Boeing, the FAA said it would halt Boeing from increasing 737 MAX production, including the MAX 9, despite whatever orders Boeing has on record with airlines. 

“Let me be clear: This won’t be back to business as usual for Boeing. 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,”  FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement on January 24, 2024.

The FAA is planning on increasing its oversight of all of Boeing’s production lines, and will not approve any expansion in the MAX productions for the time being. It said it is also planning on “aggressively expanding oversight” of any new aircraft produced by Boeing, with FAA representatives boosting their floor presence at all Boeing facilities.