FAA briefly orders grounding of all Alaska Airlines planes

All Alaska and Horizon flights were grounded for an hour at approximately 10.50am ET

Martha McHardy
Wednesday 17 April 2024 17:58 BST
The Federal Aviation Administration ordered the grounding of all Alaska Airlines planes
The Federal Aviation Administration ordered the grounding of all Alaska Airlines planes (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Federal Aviation Administration briefly ordered a ground stop for all Alaska Airlines planes on Wednesday after the carrier began experiencing problems with a computer system upgrade.

The advisory was issued for all Alaska and Horizon flights after an issue arose “while performing an upgrade to the system that calculates our weight and balance”, the Seattle-based carrier said.

The airline added that they requested the ground stop “out of an abundance of caution”.

The ground stop was initially approved by the Federal Aviation Administration at approximately 10.50am ET. It was lifted just before 11.45am ET.

Flights for SkyWest, which provides regional service for Alaska Airlines and others, were excluded from the ground stop.

It is not clear how many flights were affected, but the airline told The Independent that “residual delays are expected throughout the day”.

“We apologise for the inconvenience and encourage guests to check the status of their flights on alaskaair.com or the Alaska App prior to heading to the airport,” the airline said in a statement.

The airline’s fleet is comprised of 231 Boeing 737 aircraft and 83 Embraer 175 aircraft.

A photo after the incident shows the hole left behind by the dislodged door plug on the Alaska Airlines flight (Reuters)

Earlier this year, Alaska Airlines was forced to cancel thousands of flights after a door panel blew off a 737 Max 9 aircraft shortly after takeoff.

Several passengers on board were injured in the incident, which grounded all Boeing 737 Max 9s and prompted investigations by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, into the aircraft manufacturer and Spirit AeroSystems, which made the door plug.

Reports released since have suggested the plane did not have the critical bolts it needed to keep the door plug in place when it left the factory.

Following the incident, both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines reported finding loose bolts on some of their Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft, while three of the passengers on board the flight filed a lawsuit against Boeing for $1bn.

The complaint, filed on 20 February, alleged that the aircraft manufacturer’s negligence caused the incident in early January.

In March, the Federal Aviation Authority said that Boeing had failed to meet quality control standards during manufacturing, while another report raised concerns about staff being comfortable in reporting safety issues.

“Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements,” said FAA administrator Michael Whitaker. “Making foundational change will require a sustained effort from Boeing’s leadership, and we are going to hold them accountable every step of the way.”

Boeing CEO David Calhoun has said that the company “will develop the comprehensive action plan with measurable criteria that demonstrates the profound change that Administrator Whitaker and the FAA demand”.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the incident is still underway.

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