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The FAA says airlines should check the door plugs on another model of Boeing plane

A United Airlines Boeing 737-900ER arrives at Los Angeles International Airport in 2019.
Mario Tama
Getty Images
A United Airlines Boeing 737-900ER arrives at Los Angeles International Airport in 2019.

The Federal Aviation Administration is recommending that airlines visually inspect the door plugs of more Boeing planes after a similar panel blew off a jet in midair earlier this month.

The safety alert issued late Sunday recommends that airlines operating Boeing's 737-900ER jets inspect the door plugs "as soon as possible" to make sure they're properly secured after some airlines reported unspecified issues with the bolts.

The 737-900ER is not part of Boeing's newer Max series, but it has the same optional door plug design as the Boeing 737 Max 9, according to the FAA.

More than 170 of the newer jets have been grounded since Jan. 5, when a door plug blew off a 737 Max 9 plane operated by Alaska Airlines. That plane had only been flying for a few months, according to investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Boeing 737-900ER model has over 11 million hours of operation and about 4 million flight cycles, according to the FAA.

Boeing delivered roughly 500 of the 737-900ER planes between 2007 and 2019. None have experienced significant problems with their door plugs, according to the FAA.

The FAA's safety alert says some airlines have "noted findings with bolts during the maintenance inspections" of their 737-900ER planes, but it doesn't elaborate on what the findings were. The agency says it continues to evaluate data involving the mid-cabin door plug and may order additional actions if necessary.

Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines all said they have begun checking the door plugs on their fleets of 737-900ER planes. None of the carriers said they expect any disruption to their operations.

Regulators are still studying the data from initial inspections of 40 Max 9 jets while they work to develop final inspection instructions for the planes. The FAA says safety, not speed, will determine when the Max 9 can fly again.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.