Updated Dec 28, 2023 - Technology

Boeing urges airlines to inspect planes for possible loose bolt

A United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplane takes off from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) as seen from El Segundo, California, on September 11

A United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplane takes off from Los Angeles International Airport in September. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Boeing has advised airlines to conduct inspections of its 737 Max jets for potential loose hardware in the aircrafts' rudder control systems.

Driving the news: The move comes after an unnamed international airline discovered a "bolt with a missing nut" during a routine maintenance inspection, the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday.

  • Boeing subsequently discovered an "additional undelivered aircraft with a nut that was not properly tightened," the FAA added.

The big picture: "The issue identified on the particular airplane has been remedied. Out of an abundance of caution, we are recommending operators inspect their 737 MAX airplanes and inform us of any findings," Boeing said in a statement Thursday.

  • "We informed the FAA and our customers and will continue to keep them aware of the progress," the company added.
  • No in-service incidents have been caused by this condition, Boeing said.
  • The issue does not impact older 737 Next Generation planes, Reuters reported.

Zoom in: Boeing said the advised inspections would take about two hours per airplane and shouldn't be difficult to conduct.

  • In addition, all new 737 Max airplanes would be inspected before being delivered to customer by Boeing, the company said.

State of play: American Airlines said in an emailed statement Thursday it would complete the inspections and that it didn't anticipate any impact on their operations.

  • Alaska Airlines did not foresee any impact on their operations, either. "We'll begin the inspections today and expect to be completed in the first half of January," the airline added in its email Thursday.
  • United Airlines also said via email Thursday that it didn't expect any operational impact.
  • Southwest Airlines said in an emailed statement that the inspections are underway and being conducted during "routine overnight maintenance with no operational effects."

Zoom out: This isn't the first time the 737 Max has posed issues for Boeing.

  • Two 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in Oct. 2018 and March 2019 killed a total of 346 people, resulting in a temporary global grounding of the aircraft.
  • Boeing's 737 MAX was cleared to fly again in the U.S by the FAA in November 2020.

What's next: The FAA said it would "consider additional action based on any further discovery of loose or missing hardware."

Go deeper: Boeing's one-two punch

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Southwest Airlines.

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