by David Shepardson, Valerie Insinna and Tim Hepher

(Reuters) – The US civil aviation authority, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), on Saturday ordered the temporary grounding of dozens of Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft for inspections after the loss of a fuselage part on board An Alaska Airlines plane was forced to make an emergency landing on Friday.

“The FAA requires immediate inspection of certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft before they can resume flights,” said FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker. “Safety will continue to guide our decisions.”

The civil aviation decision is much smaller in scale than the grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for twenty months, all over the world, after two fatal accidents in 2018 and 2019 linked to a cockpit software problem.

However, it constitutes a new blow for the American aircraft manufacturer, heavily in debt, which is striving to overcome several successive crises linked to security and the Covid pandemic.

The fuselage piece flew off as the Alaska Airlines plane took off from the Portland, Oregon, airport to Ontario, California, leaving a rectangular hole in the cabin and restricting the crew to turn back.

The aircraft, which had only been in service for eight weeks, landed without damage with its 171 passengers and six crew members on board.

Photos passengers posted on social media showed oxygen masks falling from the plane’s ceiling.

The vacant space can be used to install an additional evacuation door, but it was not activated on the Alaska Airlines aircraft.

The seat near the torn panel, replaced by a simple window, was unoccupied.

The FAA did not specify how many aircraft were affected by its decision but the MAX 9 represents around 200 of the 1,400 Boeing 737 MAX delivered so far and not all models are equipped with this type of plug door. “).

Before the FAA’s decision, Alaska Airlines had already grounded dozens of Boeing 737 MAX 9s to conduct safety checks.

As of Saturday morning, the company said it had completed more than a quarter of those inspections without finding any problems. Several aircraft have resumed flights, according to the FlightRadar24 website.

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said in a statement that the 65 models would be returned to service after inspections, which will be done in the “coming days.”

The Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent a team of structural, operational and systems experts to Portland to investigate.

Boeing said it was working to gather information and was in contact with the company.

Flight 1282 had just exceeded the altitude of 16,000 feet (nearly 5,000 meters) when the incident occurred, according to FlightRadar24.

“While this type of event is rare, our crew was trained and prepared to handle the situation safely,” Alaska Airlines said.

The new MAX 9 was delivered to Alaska Airlines in late October and certified in early November, according to FAA data.

(With contribution from Akanksha Khushi; Elizabeth Pineau and Jean-Stéphane Brosse)

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