Part Missing On 737 MAX Plane In India, After Alaska Airlines' Mid-Air Scare

The 40 737 Max planes registered to Indian airlines are divided among Akasa Air (22), SpiceJet (nine) and Air India Express (nine), aviation regulator DGCA said.

New Delhi:

A safety inspection of all 40 Boeing 737 Max planes operated by Indian airlines has found a missing part - a washer - on one aircraft, aviation regulator DGCA said Tuesday, prompting the American aerospace giant to sound a global call to scrutinise all of its 737 Max airplanes - there are over 1,300 in active use, according to some reports - within 24 hours for "possible loose hardware".

The 40 737 Max planes registered to Indian airlines are divided among Akasa Air (22), SpiceJet (nine) and Air India Express (nine). Checks on 39 were completed with "nil findings". The check on the 40th revealed a missing washer. "... action, as recommended by Boeing, has been taken", the DGCA said.

Boeing is under severe pressure after a door blow-out mid-air on a new Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 plane last week endangered the lives of 177 on board, adding to a ominously long (and growing) list of mishaps and crashes involving the company's flagship jet. This includes a worldwide grounding of the plane between March 2019 and December 2020, after 345 people died in two separate crashes.

READ | After US Scare, Aviation Body To Check India's Boeing 737 Max 8 Jets

On Monday the DGCA said it had initiated checks on India-registered 737 Max 8 aircraft, specifically to review the operation and proper closure of all over-wing emergency exits.

No Indian airline operates the Max 9 version of the Boeing plane.

More worryingly, on Monday both Alaska and United Airlines reported loose hardware on other 737 Max 9 planes. United said it had detected "installation issues in the door plug - for example, bolts that needed additional tightening", and Alaska said it had found "loose hardware on some aircraft".

READ | Loose Bolts Found On Boeing 737 MAX Jets After Mid-Air Door Blowout Scare

Sources told AFP United Airlines had found "installation issues" on 10 of its planes, and that this number could increase. The number of affected Alaska Airlines planes have not yet been released.

READ | Alaska Airlines Grounds All Boeing 737-9 Planes After Door Blows Out Mid-Air

On Friday an Alaska Airlines plane was forced to make an emergency landing, shortly after it departed from the Portland International Airport in Oregon in the United States. The crew reported a "pressurisation issue", but images on social media showed just how terrifying the incident was.

These showed the window panel of the plane had blown out, leaving a gaping hole in the side of a plane that was already over 16,000 feet in the air. Kyle Rinker, a passenger on the flight, told CNN the window, and then that section of the plane's fuselage, popped off soon after take-off.

READ | ''I Don't Want To Die'': Terrified Alaska Airlines Passenger Texted Parents As Door Blew Out 

The pilots managed to turn the plane around and land it, and no major injuries were reported. This was even as oxygen masks deployed and personal items were sucked out of the plane.

One of the pieces that broke off was found by a schoolteacher in the backyard of his home in the Cedar Hills suburb of Portland. The piece Bob Sauer found was a mid-cabin door plug - a piece used to replace an emergency exit that is removed on planes configured to carry more passengers.

A diagram of the plug - posted by the US' National Transportation Safety Board - shows four bolts - two in the upper corners of the plug and two lower hinge brackets - that secure the plug to the fuselage.

READ | What US Transportation Safety Board Said On Blowout On Boeing 737 Max Jet

The plug is further fastened by "stop fittings" at 12 locations along its side and the door frame. Those components hold the door plug in place and prevent it from being pushed out of the airframe.

The American aviation regulator immediately grounded all Max 9 planes, leading to hundreds of flights were cancelled. The Max 9 is only a fraction of all 737 Max planes currently in service.

The US' Federal Aviation Authority also ordered "immediate inspections" of all Max 9s worldwide.

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