The Federal Aviation Administration on Saturday ordered U.S. airlines to stop using some Boeing 737 Max 9 planes until they were inspected, after one of those planes lost a piece of its body in midair, terrifying passengers until the plane landed safely.
Alaska and United Airlines on Saturday began canceling dozens of flights after grounding their Max 9 fleets so the planes could undergo the federally mandated inspections.
The Max 9 involved in Friday’s incident had taken off from Portland, Ore., as Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, bound for Ontario, Calif. The plane returned to Portland about 20 minutes after takeoff, and no one aboard was seriously injured. Those on board described wind blowing through a gaping hole that showed the night sky and the city lights below.
Though the F.A.A. has yet to publicly discuss what caused the episode, it ordered airlines to inspect what it called a “mid-cabin door plug.”
Some of the Boeing 737 Max 9s are configured with fewer than the maximum possible number of seats and therefore do not need all the exits originally designed for the plane. Those unneeded doors are filled with a plug. The Flight 1282 plane had two such plugged doors, located between the rear of the plane and the emergency exits on the wing.
Jennifer Homendy, chairwoman of the National Safety Transportation Board, the body in charge of investigating airplane crashes, said one door plug on the plane tore off 10 minutes out from the airport while the plane was at an altitude of about 16,000 feet.