Alaska Airlines reported pressure warning lights on the last three flights of the two-month-old Boeing 737 MAX 9 that made an emergency landing on Friday after the door latch failed.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Jennifer Homendy said Sunday evening that the automatic pressurization light was on Dec. 7 on Jan. 3 on Jan. 4, but he said it was unclear whether there was a connection between these events and the rapid depression that occurred in Alaska. The airline made the decision after the warning to prevent the plane from making a long-haul flight to Hawaii so it could quickly return to the airport if necessary, Homendy said. . The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Saturday ordered the temporary suspension of the single-panel Boeing 171 Boeing MAX 9 after the Alaskan airliner was forced to make an emergency landing due to a hole in the fuselage.
The door stopper was found missing Sunday evening by a homeowner who found it in his yard, the NTSB said. Homendy said the cockpit voice recorder did not release any data because it had been overwritten and called on regulators to order retrofitting of existing aircraft with recorders that could be released. 25 hours of data, from the two hours required.
He also painted a grim picture of the incident, saying the force of the crash caused the cockpit door to open. “They heard the sound of music,” Homendy said of the crew. A quick reference list flew out the door, while the first officer lost his helmet. “Conversation is a big problem… It is described as chaos. »
A door lock blew off the left side of an Alaska Airlines flight from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California, forcing the pilots to turn around and land safely in the 171 passengers and six crew on board.
“That must have been a scary experience,” Homendy said. Alaska Airlines previously said, in response to questions about the warning lights, that the description of the aircraft’s pressurization system is typical of commercial airline operations with large aircraft.
The airline said that “in all cases, the report is thoroughly investigated and resolved according to approved procedures in compliance with all FAA regulations.”
Alaska Airlines added that it has an internal policy to prohibit aircraft with multiple maintenance complaints on certain systems during long flights over water, which the FAA does not require. The FAA said Sunday that the affected Boeing MAX 9 planes, including those of other airlines including United Airlines, will remain grounded until air traffic controllers are satisfied they are safe.
The FAA initially said Saturday that an inspection would take four to eight hours, leading many in the industry to think the plane could be returned to service sooner. But the inspection process still needs to be agreed upon between the FAA and Boeing, meaning airlines have yet to receive detailed instructions, people familiar with the matter said.
The FAA must approve Boeing’s inspection process before conducting inspections and the aircraft can resume flying. Alaska Airlines canceled 170 flights on Sunday and another 60 on Monday and said it was expected to disrupt travel from ground stops through at least midweek. United, which grounded 79 MAX 9s, canceled 230 flights on Sunday, or 8% of planned departures. The accident has put Boeing back on track as it awaits certification of the smaller MAX 7 and the larger MAX 10, which are needed to keep pace with Airbus models.
In 2019, authorities worldwide grounded all MAX aircraft for 20 months after crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia linked to faulty cockpit software killed a total of 346 people.