Boeing 737 Max 9s could return to skies soon, FAA approves inspection procedure

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday it approved an inspection procedure for grounded Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft, paving the way for the planes to come back into service after nearly three weeks on the ground.

United Airlines said it is targeting its Max 9s return to the skies on Sunday. “In the days ahead, our teams will continue to proceed in a way that is thorough and puts safety and compliance first,” said Toby Enqvist, United Airlines Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, in a statement Wednesday evening.

“We will only return each MAX 9 aircraft to service once this thorough inspection process is complete,” he said.

Following an explosive decompression of an Alaska Airlines Max 9 on Jan. 5, the FAA ordered 171 of the jets out of the skies until inspections could be performed on their mid-cabin door plugs, one of which was installed improperly and ripped away inflight in the Alaska incident.

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“We grounded the Boeing 737-9 MAX within hours of the incident over Portland and made clear this aircraft would not go back into service until it was safe,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement. “The exhaustive, enhanced review our team completed after several weeks of information gathering gives me and the FAA confidence to proceed to the inspection and maintenance phase.

The FAA, which previously announced it was increasing oversight of the 737 Max production line, said it would bar Boeing from expanding its production of the plane, pending further review.

“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,” Whitaker’s statement said.

United and Alaska Airlines have both said in earlier statements that they would work expeditiously to return their Max 9s to service once the FAA approved an inspection procedure. While the planes have been grounded, each of the two airlines, the only U.S. operators of the Max 9, have had to cancel more than 100 flights per day on average.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: FAA approves inspection procedure for Boeing 737 Max 9s

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