Travel app Kayak offers Boeing 737 Max 9 filter after that door plug drama

Handy feature as FAA expands inspections to 737-900ER aircraft

On Sunday, the US Federal Aviation Administration recommended that air carriers operating Boeing 737-900ER aircraft conduct a visual inspection of mid-exit door plugs to be certain that doors on the aircraft are attached properly.

Though not one of the Boeing MAX 9 planes grounded by the FAA earlier this month after Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 lost a door in mid-flight, the 737-900ER uses the same door design.

The incident has prompted air travelers to pay more attention to the aircraft models carrying them through the skies. According to travel booking service Kayak, usage of the company's aircraft Model filtering function surged 15x between Saturday, January 6 and Thursday, January 11.

The online ticket booking site introduced its Model filter in 2019.

The 737 MAX 8 was involved in two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019, resulting in the deaths of 346 people. Those incidents have been attributed in large part to the MCAS, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which was intended to help the plane maintain a specific attitude but ended up confounding pilots and killing those onboard Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

Kayak's Model option, which offers "Include" and "Exclude" radio buttons on flight results pages, currently lets travelers filter flight queries by the type of aircraft scheduled. It lists: Airbus 220, 320neo, 330neo, 350, and 380; Boeing 737 MAX 8, 747, 777, 787, and Other categories.

"Previously, you could filter out Max planes from your travel search on Kayak but the Max 8 and Max 9 planes were lumped together in one search," a company spokesperson told The Register. "As of January 9, we updated our aircraft filter to be more granular so you could parse out the Max 8 and Max 9 planes from your travel search."

Last Wednesday, the FAA said it was "investigating Boeing’s manufacturing practices and production lines, including those involving subcontractor Spirit AeroSystems, bolstering its oversight of Boeing, and examining potential system change."

That same day, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun visited supplier Spirit AeroSystems, source of the door plug that blew out, in Wichita, Kansas, and told employees, "We’re going to get better, not because the two of us are talking, but because the engineers at Boeing, the mechanics at Boeing, the inspectors at Boeing, the engineers at Spirit, the mechanics at Spirit, the inspectors at Spirit — they’re going to speak the same language on this in every way, shape or form. We’re going to learn from it, and then we’re going to apply it to literally everything else we do together.”

When he took over in 2020 after CEO Dennis Muilenburg was ousted in late 2019 over the MAX crashes, Calhoun said, "With the strength of our team, I'm confident in the future of Boeing, including the 737 MAX." ®

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