Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Whitaker last week said the FAA would maintain “boots on the ground” at Boeing to ensure that the airframes were constructed safely following an incident in January when the door plug of a 737 Max 9 blew out on an Alaska Air flight over Oregon, The Hill reported.
Alaska Airlines temporarily grounded all 737 Max planes for inspection after one of two door plugs on the Alaska Air flight blew out shortly after take-off from Portland. The blow-out left a hole in the plane, causing the cabin to lose air pressure. The flight was forced to make a rapid descent for an emergency landing in Portland.
While nobody was injured in the incident, Boeing announced in mid-January that it would increase quality inspections of the aircraft.
In a January 24 interview with CNBC, FAA Administrator Whitaker was asked how long the inspections would take and when the aircraft would be permitted to fly again.
Whitaker said it had been “difficult to predict” so the FAA had “sort of stopped trying.” He said once the problem had been sorted out, the planes would be up in the air again.
Whitaker said that it was taking the FAA over 8 hours to audit each 737 Max, which is twice as long as the FAA initially projected when the inspections were announced. He explained that when the area of the plane is exposed, inspectors were required to provide “a lot of measurements.” Since more data was being requested, the amount of time needed to inspect each plane was longer.
The scrutiny of Boeing’s fleet of 737 Max planes hasn’t just impacted Alaska Air.
United CEO Scott Kirby told CNBC in a separate interview that he was “disappointed” with Boeing due to the problem and suggested that United might look to other aircraft manufacturers for future purchases.
Kirby said as Boeing’s biggest partner, United needed Boeing to “take action” to correct the “consistent manufacturing challenges” the manufacturer has faced.
At the same time, Kirby was confident that the FAA’s inspection would make the 737 Max planes safe again.