(Reuters) – The U.S. aviation regulator on Friday extended the grounding of Boeing’s top-selling 737 MAX 9 airplanes indefinitely for new safety checks after a panel blew off an Alaska Airlines, forcing pilots to make an emergency landing on Jan. 5.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said 40 jets must be reinspected before it will consider putting the 171 grounded aircraft with the same panel back in service.
Here is what regulators and airlines are doing as a result of the latest incident:
AIRLINES WITH THE AFFECTED PANEL:
The airline grounded all 65 of its Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes and has cancelled hundreds of flights since the incident, with cancellations set to continue at least through Tuesday.
It said on Jan. 8 that initial reports from its technicians indicated some “loose hardware” was visible on some aircraft in the relevant area.
The only other U.S. airline operating the jets has suspended service on all 79 of its 737 MAX 9 aircraft. It has cancelled flights through Tuesday, and some additional flights in the following days.
The carrier said on Jan. 8 its preliminary checks found bolts that needed tightening on several panels. It was awaiting final approval for full inspection processes of the grounded aircraft.
The Panamanian carrier said on Tuesday that 21 Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes remained grounded, affecting around 80 flights a day or more than 20% of its operation.
It added that Copa technicians had carried out preliminary inspections of the planes, though it was still waiting for FAA-led inspections to start this week.
The airline said on Jan. 12 that the 19 Boeing 737 MAX 9 jets in its fleet remained grounded awaiting inspection.
Aeromexico added it had launched a flexible flight-change policy for affected travellers, but did not specify how many flights had been cancelled.
The airline said on Jan. 7 it had withdrawn five 737 MAX 9 aircraft from service for inspection.
AIRLINES THAT LACK THE AFFECTED PANEL:
Icelandair said the issue is related to equipment that’s not a part of the configuration of its four 737 MAX 9 aircraft.
The airline said its three 737 MAX 9 planes, which use a deactivated mid-aft exit door configuration, were not affected.
CORENDON DUTCH AIRLINES
Corendon Dutch said it has two 737 MAX 9, but the airline uses the extra door, so inspections are not needed.
Air Tanzania has one 737 MAX 9, but its CEO said Boeing had told the airline its aircraft was not of the type that needed inspection.
U.S. FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA)
The FAA has launched a formal investigation into the MAX 9, and said on Jan. 12 it will intensify oversight of Boeing.
The agency’s chief Mike Whitaker said the Alaska Airlines MAX 9 had “significant problems” and noted Boeing’s history of production issues. The FAA said 40 of the 171 grounded planes needed to be reinspected before it can determine if safety is adequate to allow the aircraft to resume flying.
The FAA will also re-examine its decision to delegate some responsibilities to Boeing and consider moving some functions under independent, third-party entities.
The investigation will determine if Boeing failed to ensure completed products conformed to its approved designs and were in condition for safe operation under FAA rules, the agency told the planemaker in a letter dated Jan. 10.
U.S. NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD (NTSB)
The independent U.S. agency has opened an investigation into the incident, and it appointed International Associations of Machinists and Aerospace workers (IAM) to the investigation.
The NTSB said the plane’s cockpit voice recorder was overwritten, renewing long-standing calls for longer in-flight recordings.
Brazil’s aviation regulator ANAC said on Jan. 7 the FAA ruling automatically applies to all flights in Brazil.
In Brazil, only Copa Airlines operates the plane, it said.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority said on Jan. 6 that no UK-registered planes were affected. It will require any 737 MAX 9 operators entering its airspace to comply with the FAA directive.
China’s aviation regulator has instructed the country’s airlines to conduct precautionary safety inspections on 737 MAX jets, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Chinese airlines do not have the MAX 9 model in their fleet, only MAX 8 which do not have the panel involved in the Alaska Airlines incident.
China Southern Airlines had been preparing to receive MAX planes in January, but it plans to conduct additional safety inspections, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.
Beijing is holding off from making further substantive moves as it waits for more clarity from U.S. investigations, the WSJ reported.
The EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) adopted the FAA directive, but noted no EU member state airlines operate aircraft with the affected configuration.
India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said on Jan. 8 that one-time inspections it had ordered of 737 MAX 8 aircraft had been performed satisfactorily. None of the country’s airlines fly the MAX 9 model.
Indonesia temporarily grounded three MAX 9 planes operated by Lion Air on Jan. 6, a transport ministry spokesperson said, adding that the planes had different configurations from the Alaska Airlines plane.
Panama’s civil aviation authority said on Jan. 11 it had grounded 21 of Copa Airlines’ 737 MAX 9 planes. The carrier has 29 in its fleet, but only 21 have the affected panel.
South Korea’s transport ministry said on Jan. 11 it will conduct inspections of maintenance procedures of the country’s airlines operating 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
The ministry said five South Korean airlines operate 14 MAX 8 airplanes. This comes after the ministry said no problems had been detected after inspections on Jan. 9.
Turkey’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Jan. 8 noted the FAA’s actions and said it was coordinating with stakeholders regarding affected aircraft belonging to airlines in Turkey and those using Turkish airspace.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The civil aviation said on Jan. 7 that none of its national carriers have planes affected by the order.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Compiled by Josephine Mason, Luca Fratangelo, Marleen Käsebier, Lisa Barrington and Kylie Madry; Editing by Jamie Freed, Matthew Lewis and Milla Nissi)