Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun admitted Tuesday, January 9, to an “error” after a door stalled during an Alaska Airlines flight, which resulted in dozens of 737 MAX planes being grounded 9 from the American manufacturer.

“We are going to approach [this issue] by first recognizing our mistake,” the executive declared during a meeting at the group’s factory in Renton (Washington State), according to quotes sent by a Boeing spokesperson. . Dave Calhoun promised to address the issue “completely transparently, every step of the way.”

He said he was relying on the American Civil Aviation Regulatory Authority (FAA) “to ensure that all aircraft authorized to fly are safe and to ensure that this event never happens again.” “All the details are important,” he insisted, claiming to have been marked by the images of the Alaska Airlines flight, which had to turn around on Friday after a door was torn off. The boss of the aircraft manufacturer did not specify what he meant by “error”.

171 planes temporarily prevented from flying

Some 171 of the 218 aircraft of this model in service are affected by the flight suspension ordered Saturday by the agency. On Monday, the United company, which owns the first fleet of 737 MAX 9s in the world (79 aircraft), indicated that it had discovered “bolts that needed to be tightened” during checks on the condemned doors of its 737 MAX 9s, the same as the one torn off Friday during the Alaska Airlines flight. Locking certain doors is offered by Boeing to its customers when the number of existing emergency exits is already sufficient in relation to the number of seats in the aircraft. In addition to the 737 MAX 9, this device already exists on other Boeing models, notably the 737-900ER, launched in 2006 and which has not experienced any similar incidents since.

Also on Monday, Alaska Airlines also revealed that it had detected “loose equipment” on some of its aircraft of this type, after preliminary inspections. The reasons for the failure that occurred on Friday have not yet been established and the American Transportation Safety Agency (NTSB) is continuing its investigations. Its president, Jennifer Homendy, announced Monday evening that she had not found any bolts among the elements that came off the Alaska Airlines plane on Friday. Further research will “determine whether the bolts were there,” she continued.

The FAA announced Tuesday, in a statement sent to Agence France-Presse, that “all Boeing 737-9s with an obstructed door [will] remain on the ground until [the agency] has established that they can be used again.” The regulator specified that Boeing had modified the instructions on Tuesday allowing the complete inspection of the door, frame and fasteners, after receiving feedback concerning the first instructions communicated on Monday. “Passenger safety, not the speed [of inspections], will determine the timeline for returning the 737 9 MAX to service,” the FAA added.

Nearly 1,500 flights canceled

“We are still awaiting inspection and maintenance instructions from Boeing, and validation of these procedures by the FAA,” Alaska Airlines wrote on its X account. “Until then, the fleet (of 737-9s) will remain on the ground. » The Seattle (Washington State) company still had to cancel more than 100 flights on Tuesday due to the shutdown of some of its aircraft. Since Saturday, Alaska Airlines and United have had to cancel a total of nearly 1,500 flights.

This new setback, which follows a series of others in recent years, comes as Boeing was recovering its head and managed to improve its production rates at the end of 2023. After having delivered only 15 737 planes MAX in September, its lowest monthly total in two years, then 18 in October, the Arlington (Virginia) aircraft manufacturer climbed to 46 in November, then 44 in December, according to figures released Tuesday.

“I think Airbus and Boeing, and certainly Boeing, need to significantly improve their quality control,” said the boss of the European airline Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, in an interview published Tuesday by the Financial Times. Already a major customer of Boeing, Ryanair ordered, last May, 300 737 MAX 10 planes, a model which has not yet been certified by the FAA.