EASA Adopts MAX 9 AD Even Though No Aircraft Are Affected


The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has taken the unusual step of adopting the FAA’s emergency AD on the MAX 9 door plug inspection even though none of its carriers have any of the affected aircraft. The FAA’s AD was issued after a fuselage plug replacing an emergency exit in an Alaska Airlines MAX 9 departed the airplane last Friday. The plug is used to fill the space where an emergency exit is required on some seat configurations for the MAX 9. All MAX 9s in the EU have the exit installed. EASA did not explain its decision and in fact went to some lengths to stress that none of its member states’ aircraft are affected.

Meanwhile Alaska and United, which operate most of the 171 MAX 9s in service in the U.S., have canceled hundreds of flights as they complete the four-to-eight-hour inspections of the plugs mandated by the AD. Alaska has 65 affected aircraft and United 79. As of Sunday, Alaska had canceled at least 160 flights and United has not released its cancellation total. It’s expected flight disruptions will continue for several more days.

Alaska Flight 1282 had just taken off from Portland for Ontario, California, about 5 p.m. local time on Friday and was passing through 16,000 feet when the plug detached from the fuselage, causing a rapid decompression. A boy sitting next to the panel had the shirt sucked from his body and adults, including his mother, held him in his seat. There were some minor injuries reported but no hospitalizations. Some passengers lost cellphones and other personal items. There were 177 passengers and six crew onboard. The flight crew declared an emergency and dove for thicker air before landing back in Portland 20 minutes later.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Are the hinging and latching mechanisms the same or similar on the “plug door” as in the actual emergency door assembly? That may explain EASA precautions.

    • No. The actual doors and emergency exits all rotate or open inward so that the internal pressure forces them against the seals. The plug would have been mechanically fastened to fuselage and would not have hinges or latches. The troubling thing is that there were indications that something was wrong when a warning light concerning pressurization lit several times.

  2. The plot thickens. Alaska Airlines reported that the auto-pressurization fail light, indicating cabin pressure control issues, activated on three flights in the weeks before the incident. Maintenance conducted tests and barred the plane from flying to Hawaii as a precaution. However, a later request for a more thorough inspection went unfulfilled.

    • You’re correct, the plot thickens. As a retired A&P I found your message thought provoking and wonder if Alaska now wishes they’d have completed said later thorough inspection request. Also, even though none of the passengers were hurt I do expect lawsuits over this incident.

  3. United hasn’t reported cancellations likely because United has a much larger number of aircraft types it can use to substitute with than Alaska does.

  4. The interior pictures show the opening looks similar in design and configuration to a typical door plug found in a normal entry/exit to the 727 I used to fly.
    Deferred MX on this one is going to bite some one in the behind. If it was leaking I would think that there would be a lot of noise coming from a leaky seal.
    Maybe people will be a little more diligent about having their seatbelt fastened when seated. I still take the over wing exit row if offered. I know how to open the exit and the extra leg room is appreciated.

  5. “Maybe people will be a little more diligent about having their seatbelt fastened when seated.”

    I think that, for at least until all this is in the news, passengers will cinch themselves until blue in the face.

  6. Why does the media still report this as a window blew out? Where do they find their reporters and editors? Every photo of the aircraft clearly shows that the plug for an emergency exit exited the aircraft, unless they are now putting picture windows on some aircraft for better views.

    • There is a window in the door plug, so the media isn’t exactly wrong, its just misleading. A window did depart the aircraft, contained in the door plug. It is worth noting that this is not a door that departed, only a fuselage plug that Boeing installed in place of what could have been a door in a different configuration. Certification standards require the additional emergency exit door in certain cases where the cabin is configured with a greater number of passenger seats.

    • George, it wasn’t until I read Russ Niles’s article just now that I had ever heard of a “fuselage plug.” Plus, Niles explained it clearly. I suspect the news people writing on deadline did not have the benefit of such a clear explanation.

  7. The good news is that the depress happened at only 16,000 feet, NOT up in the flight levels, A blowout at FL330 would likely have destroyed the aircraft.

    • Well, no. If the plug had hit the aircraft after departing, no matter the altitude, especially a control surface, then I might agree.

      But just departing and depressurization would not cause a catastrophic structural or control failure.

    • A depressurization reduces stress on the airframe . At high flight levels the stress reduction is greater that is all. The danger is if the plug hits any flight control or other structure which is quite unlikely as the acceleration of a fairly light door driven by a a few PIS but a hell of a lot of square inches making for a large force. would result in an initial acceleration of about 2 or 3 seconds of at least 15 g will drive that door out at about 450 fps. pushing it out about 45 feet in te 0.1 sec it would take for it to reach the flight controls with an additional 1 g downward movement or 3 feet down. Plus is install in a position where the top of the plug is a bit lower than the emenage in any casemaking the striking to be exceedingly unlikely except for some debris, which if carbon fiber the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer would not be harmed as they have to survive bird strike.

      • Is there also a possibility of the slipstream creating a tearing effect on the skin at the opening? Since the aircraft was at 16,000 ft, it was probably climbing to cruise altitude. If so, its TAS would be much lower than at cruise altitude. Could a cruise speed of 550 TAS in a slight yaw “get under” the skin and tear it off ?

  8. Professional job on the part of the Alaska Airlines Flt 1282 crewmembers (Pilots and FA’s). It just goes to show you, when the unexpected arises, the most important safety component on any commercial airliner, is a min of 2 well trained, well rested pilots on the flight deck. If you have ever seen the inside of a cockpit during an emergency, you know it can get busy fast. Fact: Some in the airline industry are putting profits ahead of safety by pushing to reduce the number of pilots on the flight deck? Don’t let it happen. Just say no to reduced pilot ops.

    • They probably thought “Great, a brand-new MAX. Should be smooth flight, but let’s brief those stabilizer trim runaway procedures one more time.”

    • The crew are the least culpable. When we receive a plane that has a correct sign off from maintenance, we really can’t refuse it unless there is an obvious issue. I’m on airline 5, at all of them I’ve seen the ‘repeat’ write-ups, and the ubiquitous, ‘reset, could not duplicate’ logbook entries.

      Sometimes, a deferral is just plane stupid, and we have to call the company out on it. I had one in particular about 10 years ago. Had both autopilots inop on an Embraer. We had just flown from upstate NY to New York City. Airplane was scheduled to go on a 2+ hour flight to Florida. Both my FO and I basically said, no, we’re not taking the airplane out of a maintenance base to hand fly it, at night. 10 minutes later I’m on the phone with the fleet manager berating me for refusing an airplane with a deferral. Long story, we didn’t take the plane, but this is the type of thing that drives line pilots crazy.

      • No, the pressurization controller issue had nothing to do with the door issue. The pressurization controller fault was simply the primary controller switching momentarily to the secondary controller. Dealing with management at Alaska is really great. You can refuse a plane and you don’t hear anything about it. You may have to explain yourself but management pilots are on your side at Alaska. Same with calling in sick, fatigued, adjusting your in time for a post flight. I would have accepted the plane and I would have been in the right doing so because the door and the pressurization warning were two unrelated issues. Ops pulled the plane from ETOPS operations because they wanted to address the issue, not because they were ignoring it. The plane would have even been legal to take to the Islands but ops was being more restricting than they were required to be. The crew did nothing wrong, Alaska wasn’t doing anything wrong either. It was a brand spanking new plane.

  9. May I remind the treasured audience of the Clarke & Dawe skit from 1991. Search for: “The front fell off”. In it, both public relations people of Boeing and all the media editors will find conclusive answers…