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First U.S. 737 MAX 9 Returns to Revenue Service

Alaska flight 1146 was the U.S.'s first passenger-carrying flight since the aircraft's grounding in early January.

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Alaska mechanics inspect the door plug on a 737 MAX 9 (Photo: Alaska Airlines)

The first Boeing 737 MAX 9 operated by a U.S. airline has returned to revenue service after a nearly three-week-long grounding. Alaska flight 1146 from Seattle to San Diego took off on Friday afternoon following the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s Wednesday announcement that the aircraft could return to service pending certain inspections.

On Jan. 5, 2024, Alaska flight 1282 experienced a rapid decompression after a door plug detached from the fuselage, falling nearly 16,000 feet. The incident prompted the FAA to ground the combined 144 737 MAX 9 aircraft operated by both Alaska and United. At Alaska, the 737 MAX 9 was slated to operate nearly 25% of the carrier’s planned January schedule.

First Alaska 737 MAX 9 returns to revenue service (Photo: Flightradar24)

Alaska and United reported that they each found loose bolts in the door plugs of their respective 737 MAX 9 aircraft. “I’m more than frustrated and disappointed. I am angry. This happened to Alaska Airlines. It happened to our guests and happened to our people,” Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci told NBC News.

Boeing paused production at its 737 assembly facility in Renton, Wash. on Thursday as part of a so-called safety ‘stand-down.’ The FAA has also halted Boeing from expanding 737 MAX production.

Both U.S.-based 737 MAX 9 operators are planning to resume revenue service with the type on Friday. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)’s investigation into the January 5 incident is ongoing, however, investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the door plug’s fastening bolts were not installed at all.

Ryan Ewing
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  • Ryan Ewing

    Ryan founded AirlineGeeks.com back in February 2013 and has amassed considerable experience in the aviation sector. His work has been featured in several publications and news outlets, including CNN, WJLA, CNET, and Business Insider. During his time in the industry, he's worked in roles pertaining to airport/airline operations while holding a B.S. in Air Transportation Management from Arizona State University along with an MBA. Ryan has experience in several facets of the industry from behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 to interviewing airline industry executives. Ryan works for AirlineGeeks' owner FLYING Media, spearheading coverage in the commercial aviation space.

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