Part of the side wall and a window blew out during the Alaska Airlines flight to California © Kyle Rinker via REUTERS

US grounds some Boeing 737 Max planes after window blows out mid-air

Aircraft manufacturer has been under scrutiny after crashes involving variants of the plane in 2018 and 2019

US federal regulators have temporarily grounded some Boeing 737 Max planes in American airspace after a section of an Alaska Airlines jet blew out in mid-air.

The emergency directive from the US Federal Aviation Administration affects about 171 jets worldwide. Carriers will need to inspect aircraft before further flight, a process that takes four to eight hours per plane, according to the directive.

“The FAA is requiring immediate inspections of certain Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes before they can return to flight,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said. “Safety will continue to drive our decision-making as we assist the [National Transportation Safety Board’s] investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.”

The move is a blow to Boeing, which has struggled with manufacturing defects on the 737. It continues to experience the fallout from a 20-month worldwide grounding imposed by regulators after a pair of deadly crashes five months apart.

“Safety is our top priority,” Boeing said in a statement. “We agree with and fully support the FAA’s decision to require immediate inspections of 737-9 airplanes with the same configuration as the affected airplane.”

Alaska grounded 65 jets in its own fleet after an incident on a Friday night flight from Portland, Oregon, to California. It turned around 35 minutes into the journey and returned safely to Portland.

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