Indonesia temporarily grounds three Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes – transport ministry

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia temporarily grounded three Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes on Jan. 6, operated by Lion Air, despite different configurations from the plane that had to make an emergency landing in the U.S. last week, the transport ministry said on Monday.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered the temporary grounding of 171 Boeing jets installed with the same panel that tore off an eight-week-old Alaska Airlines jet on Friday, forcing an emergency landing with a gap in the fuselage.

The door plug blew off the left side of the Alaska Airlines jet following takeoff from Portland, Oregon, en route to Ontario, California, forcing pilots to turn back and land safely with all 171 passengers and six crew on board.

Three Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes, the only ones Indonesia had, were grounded starting from January 6 until further notice, said Adita Irawati, a transport ministry spokesperson.

The Lion Air planes had a “mid cabin emergency exit door type II” whereas the Alaska Airlines plane had a “mid exit door plug,” Adita said.

“This means the system in the mid-section of emergency doors were functional and could be used for evacuation,” Adita added.

The ministry will coordinate with the FAA, Boeing and Lion Air to monitor the situation, adding that “operational safety will be our priority.”

A Lion Air spokesperson said the airline is conducting further inspection of the planes to ensure the emergency door mechanism works normally.

(Reporting by Stefanno Sulaiman and Stanley Widianto; Editing by Louise Heavens and Raju Gopalakrishnan)