FAA Completes Inspections of First 40 Boeing 737 MAX 9 Jets

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has completed inspections of an initial group of 40 Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes, a key hurdle to ungrounding the planes after a Jan. 5 incident where a cabin panel broke off in mid-flight on a new Alaska Airlines jet. The FAA said it will "thoroughly review the data" before deciding if the planes can resume flights. The incident has shaken confidence in Boeing's planes a few years after a pair of crashes killed 346 people and sparked investigations into the company's production processes.


The heads of Boeing and supplier Spirit AeroSystems met with Spirit employees in Kansas, while regulators answered questions from U.S. senators in a closed-door hearing in Washington. Boeing shares have lost roughly 20% of their value since the beginning of the year. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and FAA briefed senators on the Commerce Committee for over an hour on the investigation into why the MAX 9 cabin panel blew out, leaving a gaping hole. NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said the board still did not know what went wrong but was casting a wide net for potential issues.

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Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun visited Spirit AeroSystems' production facilities in Wichita for an employee town hall alongside that company's CEO, Pat Shanahan. Shanahan said Spirit would make changes and improvements and "will restore confidence." The two executives answered several questions from employees, ranging from how lessons from the incident could influence future airplane designs and whether Spirit and Boeing were united on a path forward. Boeing declined to comment.

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Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, the two U.S. carriers that use the aircraft and completed the inspections, have had to cancel hundreds of flights this month. Boeing has named retired U.S. Navy Admiral Kirkland H. Donald to advise the planemaker's CEO on improving quality control.

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