What recently happened onboard the Alaska Airlines from Portland headed to Ontario flying the Boeing 737 Max 9 was quite disturbing to see. What I want to point out is that even with a large hole in the side of the fuselage, the pilots were able to still fly the aircraft safely and get everyone back to the Portland airport. (If you are an av geek like myself, there are more details about the door plug structure in link below signature line)
This is an area of the aircraft that is made to be used as an optional door for airlines which choose a larger, more tighter capacity configuration of passengers and for things like extra exits for ETOPS (extended over water operations). It is only available as an option to be “plugged” on the 737 Max 9 models and the only domestic airlines that have these aircraft are Alaska Airlines and United Airlines.
Aircraft are rigorously designed, tested, and flown before ever being delivered to the airlines for passenger flights. They are extremely strong and sound. They are made to withstand all types of issues, factors, and conditions. I discuss this in my soon to be published book, “From Your Captain, Welcome Aboard!” – a guidebook for stress-free passenger air travel.
The airlines and manufacturer immediately grounded those aircraft and began inspecting them in detail. This entails pulling off the interior panels and insulation while inspecting the hinges and fittings that keep this door plug in place. They will be looking to see if the parts are to specification standards of quality, size, and structure. They will also look to see if all steps were accomplished in both the manufacturing process and maintenance procedures. Now that they have the door itself, this will also provide answers.
Returning to Service:
The airplanes will not return to service until the exact cause is determined and the repairs are made. Once this happens, they will most likely be pressure tested and flown before having any passengers onboard. You can be assured that you can fly onboard safely!
Wishing you Blue Skies and Smooth Flights!