Boeing requested federal government regulators exempt its new 737 Max 7 airliner model from safety standards — just weeks before the Federal Aviation Administration ordered earlier Max planes be grounded after a window panel blew out on an Alaskan Airlines flight on Friday.
Federal officials said last year that the aircraft company was working to fix the hazard on its current Max planes that could cause part of the engine housing to overheat and break off during flight — possibly smashing into windows and causing rapid decompression.
The FAA asked pilots flying Max 8 and Max 9 models to limit the use of an anti-icing system in dry conditions to avoid damage that “could result in loss of control of the airplane” while it addressed the issue — but Boeing still has not come up with a permanent fix.
Last month, Boeing asked the FAA for an exemption to safety standards related to engine inlets and the anti-ice system on its new Max 7 plane through May 2026. The company needs the exemption in order to begin delivering the new, unreleased smaller planes to airlines.
Boeing said Friday that it is “developing a long-term solution” that would face FAA review.
The overheating issue only affects Boeing’s Max, which has engine inlets made from carbon composite materials as opposed to metal.
The hazard caused a fatality in 2018, when an engine fan blade broke on an older 737 during a Southwest Airlines flight. A piece of loose engine housing broke loose and struck and shattered a window, killing a woman sitting in the window seat.
A Boeing spokeswoman told The Associated Press that under the company’s request, pilots of the new Max 7 would follow the same guidelines to withhold from using the anti-ice systems as pilots of current Max planes.
There have been two major crashes involving the 737 Max since it went into service in 2017.
In 2018, a plane operated by Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed shortly after take off, killing all 189 people on board. Then five months later in 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed — also shortly after takeoff — killing all 157 on board.
All Max jets were grounded worldwide for nearly two years while the company made changes to an automated flight-control system that pushed the nose down based on faulty sensor readings.
The FAA on Saturday ordered some Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes out of the air after a large piece of fuselage blew out on an Alaskan Airlines flight mid-air, sucking passengers’ belongings out of the gaping hole and forcing the plan to make an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon.
The grounding involves about 171 planes globally, the agency said.
The FAA said its Emergency Airworthiness Directive “will require operators to inspect aircraft before further flight.”
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