United Airlines finds loose bolts on some Boeing 737 Max planes

WASHINGTON – United Airlines has found loose bolts on multiple 737 Max 9 aircraft, it said on Jan 8, referring to the Boeing model grounded after a cabin panel blew off an Alaska Airlines-operated plane in mid-flight on Jan 5.

United found issues related to the installation on several panels that were being inspected following the accident, it said in a statement. The disclosure raises concerns about the production process of 171 Boeing Max jets, mostly operated by United States carriers Alaska and United Airlines, that have been grounded while safety checks are made.

Boeing shares sank 8 per cent on Jan 8 as the latest setback for the jetmaker has left it trailing rival Airbus after a series of production delays hampered its recovery from a lengthy 737 MAX safety grounding in 2019.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing declined to comment on the loose bolt reports.

“Since we began preliminary inspections on Jan 6, we have found instances that appear to relate to installation issues in the door plug – for example, bolts that needed additional tightening. These findings will be remedied by our tech ops team to safely return the aircraft to service,” United said in a statement.

Alaska said it has not yet found any loose bolts because it has not yet started inspections.

The FAA gave the go-ahead on Jan 8 for airlines to inspect grounded jets using an approved process by Boeing, but both Alaska and United are awaiting another FAA approval before they can begin.

The intensive inspections of the 171 Max planes may take several days, forcing the cancellation of numerous flights.

The FAA on Jan 6 ordered the temporary grounding for checks of Max 9 jets installed with a 27kg panel, called a plug, which detached from a full Alaska Airlines Flight on Jan 5 and crashed into a Portland suburb without harm.

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