US Transportation Chief dashes hopes of quick Boeing Max 9 jet return

WASHINGTON – US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Jan 10 that Boeing Co.’s Max 9 airplanes would remain grounded until regulators deem them safe to fly, dashing hopes for a quick return to the skies for the beleaguered jet.

“All I’m going to say about that is the only consideration is safety,” Mr Buttigieg told reporters after an appearance at a transportation conference in Washington. “That’s going to dictate everything.” He didn’t specify how long the process could take. “Nobody can or should be rushed in that process,” he said. 

Boeing is facing intense scrutiny after a door plug ejected from a 737 Max 9 last week mid-flight, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the plane. US regulators grounded 171 of Boeing’s 737 Max 9 aircraft and ordered inspections after the Jan 5 accident, in which no one was injured.

Mr Buttigieg said that Boeing has to demonstrate that every plane it delivers to airlines is “100 per cent safe”. This means “finding and fixing anything related to this issue, whether it’s directly or indirectly related,” as well as “anything that surfaces in the inspections that are taking place”. 

Alaska Air Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. have both discovered other 737 Max 9 jets with loose bolts after the grounding was ordered. Formal inspections have yet to start; the agency said on Jan 9 that Boeing is revising instructions for the checks after receiving feedback, and all of the affected planes will remain idled until the regulator deems them safe.  

Airline executives, including two from Boeing’s biggest customers, Ryanair Holdings Plc and Emirates, have spoken of the need for Boeing to raise quality standards. Wizz Air Holdings Plc CEO Jozsef Varadi said the relationship between manufacturers and regulators had gotten too “cozy”. BLOOMBERG

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